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Benji James Jun 2017
My eyes are running black
The sky is starting to crack
My back is starting to ache
As my hands start to shake
My vocals are starting to strain
I'll keep pushing through the pain
I'll keep making my way
Writing my own fate
All these tears won't wash the memories away
I'll keep holding on, Stand strong
Proving I can handle anything that goes wrong

No, I won't fight back the tears
No, I won't hold back what I think
I've held it in for far too long
I'm letting it all loose
No more weight on my shoulders
Need to be a little bit braver
A little bit bolder
After all the mistakes I made
I feel a little bit wiser

Don't give in (To all your pain)
Don't throw (Everyone you love away)
I'm starting to see
You don't need to do everything
On your own
You don't have to always feel alone
I'm not just another shadow
on the floor
I'm starting to see the ones
Who've earned my love
And I'm starting to see
I get it back in return

You've been here all along
To help carry the load I bear
You've always been there
To guide me with your hand
And all the love we have, We share
You plus me have been through every tragedy
It's taken all this time to learn
You can help me breathe
Tell me everything you see in me
I'll let down the walls
Take a look at all the flaws
And all the hurt that was all my fault
But you see where perfection lies
and sincerity that is trying to hide
the broken piece to my heart you'll find
Because I want you to be classed as mine

No, I won't fight back the tears
No, I won't hold back what I think
I've held it in for far too long
I'm letting it all loose
No more weight on my shoulders
Need to be a little bit braver
A little bit bolder
After all the mistakes I made
I feel a little bit wiser

Don't give in (To all your pain)
Don't throw (Everyone you love away)
I'm starting to see
You don't need to do everything
On your own
You don't have to always feel alone
I'm not just another shadow
on the floor
I'm starting to see the ones
Who've earned my love
And I'm starting to see
I get it back in return

You're here in every waking moment
Struggle with me through every problem
You know every scar that is marked on my heart
You've wiped every tear that I cry
You said I was your soldier who makes you smile
And all the battles that we have faced
Have carried us to a higher and safer place
In your arms I know I'm safe
And no matter what darkness lies inside
I know you'll protect me with your life
As will I
Because baby you're my kryptonite
You could try counting all the stars
But you can't count all the ways
In which I love you
I'll never put another above you
Because everything I am
Is everything you gave me
And I won't throw that away for anybody
Cuz you are my everybody
Your the one and only
With you, I could never feel lonely
There was only room for two
Honey that was me plus you.

No, I won't fight back the tears
No, I won't hold back what I think
I've held it in for far too long
I'm letting it all loose
No more weight on my shoulders
Need to be a little bit braver
A little bit bolder
After all the mistakes I made
I feel a little bit wiser

Don't give in (To all your pain)
Don't throw (Everyone you love away)
I'm starting to see
You don't need to do everything
On your own
You don't have to always feel alone
I'm not just another shadow
on the floor
I'm starting to see the ones
Who've earned my love
And I'm starting to see
I get it back in return

©2017 Written By Benji James
First forget what time it is
for an hour
do it regularly every day

then forget what day of the week it is
do this regularly for a week
then forget what country you are in
and practice doing it in company
for a week
then do them together
for a week
with as few breaks as possible

follow these by forgetting how to add
or to subtract
it makes no difference
you can change them around
after a week
both will help you later
to forget how to count

forget how to count
starting with your own age
starting with how to count backward
starting with even numbers
starting with Roman numerals
starting with fractions of Roman numerals
starting with the old calendar
going on to the old alphabet
going on to the alphabet
until everything is continuous again

go on to forgetting elements
starting with water
proceeding to earth
rising in fire

forget fire
Patrick Austin Sep 2018
Our Backgrounds before we met...

I'm an only child born in Montana in 1983, from a divided home. Parents divorced at seven, Mom was unstable and unfaithful. Dad obtained custody of me and we moved to Oregon Coast to live with my Grandma. I had unhealthy visits and relationship with Mom thereafter. My Grandma died at 12 and at 13 my Dad remarried an alcoholic woman, I had a strained relationship with them until adulthood when she stopped drinking. I had exposure to trauma; alcoholism, mental illness, verbal abuse and juvenile troubles. I rebelled by using drugs in my late teens and early twenties, I lived on my own for a few years after high school but had little direction.

My bride is the eldest with two little brothers, parents stayed in same area of Portland during childhood with lots of family support and her parents stayed married. They had Christian values but some anger and anxiety issues at home. She was sexually assaulted at 17 and never had good closure with this. She told me her parents didn't provide her enough help with things like this growing up. Status quo was the backbone of the family dynamic, challenging emotions were discouraged. She rebelled by being reckless with herself, financially and sexually. She decided to join the Navy at 19. She lived alone briefly, but mostly with Grandparents & Parents before our marriage.

I loved how we both grew up reading Archie comics. No other girl I had ever met had that in common with me. I think we wanted a surreal life like the one in Riverdale.

2002

She and I were 19 when we first met in my home town on the coast at an arcade. We became friends and secretly liked each other. I was too nervous to ever make a move on her. We traveled together, she stayed with me, we used drugs together and drank at times. One night she drank too much and had *** with a guy I knew at a party. I was devastated by this. She was Navy bound and I didn't see a real future for us. The next morning she left and I didn't talk to her again for two years. I figured she would be gone with the Navy soon and that she must not have been interested in a relationship with me despite the time we spent together.

2003

I was depressed about this rejection. I dated an older woman who was interested in me but was no substitute. I eventually moved to the Portland area to work and live. I still had few plans and was lonely, in or out of the few brief relationships I attempted. I never found someone that I felt safe with or had a true connection, let alone true love. She ended up not following through with the Navy and continued working her way up in her job at the call center. She attended community college and dated a few guys. She dated one guy for a couple of years who was not a good match for her but stayed with him off and on despite issues. His family was wealthy and treated her well. He slept around on her as did she. At one point he gave her an STD. She also had an ongoing affair with a married man in the military that she went to high school with. He had a child and a wife with mental health issues. She was still hurting a lot at times and not always doing well.

2004

She reached out to me via email after two years of no contact. We emailed back and forth a couple times over the next few months. We talked about meeting up. We spoke on the phone and eventually met up in Portland. We had an amazing night getting to know each other again and work past the confusion of our earlier days of friendship. I realized that she did in fact like me before but since I was timid and trying to be proper and take things slowly she didn't understand my motives. She apologized for her actions at the party as well. She claimed she was in a really messed up place and was making bad choices at that time. Getting our feelings out in the open was good and she appreciated my attitude towards being slow to make moves on her when we first met. I was worried about falling for her based on our history but eventually I was determined to give it a shot. We soon after starting dating and being intimate. Our love was extremely powerful and beyond all others we had both experienced. She broke ties with other suitors and shortly after we talked about marriage and started planning a wedding for the next year.

I remember when we first held hands. We were so shakey and she was quivering on my couch as I had my arm around her. We felt so safe with each other. We could finally be ourselves and do what our hearts desired. We knew we were on to something new and so amazing. We were so patient with each other as we navigated our new love and emotional thresholds.

I remember when we saw Matisyahu in concert together. That was a once in a lifetime experience and a life-changing moment for us. I feel it set the tone for things to come in our future.

I remember how creative my proposal to her was, in the Arcade where we first met. I hid the ring in a prize container from one of those claw machines. Pretending I got the ring from inside by reaching into the machine on one knee I was so nervous and wasn't sure if I could pull it off before she caught on. She looked so shocked and surprised. I was so excited she said yes! We took pictures in the photo machine and had burgers afterwards, I'd do all of it all over again just to see her face in that moment.

2005

We found an apartment for us in Portland. I moved in while she was still living back with her parents until the wedding. She had to change her number because the married man she was previously involved with kept calling her about changing her mind about marriage and continuing their relationship. She was offered a job in Denver and we decided to move away together after our sandy wedding in Cannon Beach. I still had a very hard time and was embarrassed with my past history with her. Many of my friends knew what had happened at 19 and how much it hurt me but I was so crazy about her I think I tried to pretend it didn't happen or that it was not a big deal because we were younger. We got married and moved to Colorado soon after. We made friends at a church, I became more active as a Christian and really loved being married. We were very involved in keeping spirituality in our marriage. I began to notice her poor financial decisions and practices more. This caused conflict but we always tried to communicate and work on things.

I remember when we went down to my folks for New Year's in 2005. We sipped tea in my Datsun as we drove to the coast over the snowy mountain pass. We told them of our engagement. We were all so blissful and excited. We never knew what was to come. We didn't even know about the opportunity in Denver yet. Our story is amazing!

I remember when I wanted to go see her in Portland and the roads were iced over. I left my car at a park and ride before I caused a wreck. I took the light rail across town then rode a bus to the Eastside shopping mall. The bus to her house was not running because it wasn't safe so I walked the rest of the 4 Miles sometimes having to crawl on my hands and knees to make it up hills in the ice and then I finally made it only to just spend a couple hours with her and fall asleep on her parents couch. Her Dad drove us back the next morning to my car so I could get to work. It was all worth it just to see her for that little extra time. I would have done anything for her.

I remember when she was interviewing for the new position in Denver? I drove all over Portland trying to find little toy cars to help with her illustration about how a team is like a car having all four wheels and how they work together to accomplish a goal. I was so proud of her for giving it her all and succeeding at earning that position. Now that I think of it, that car analogy applies to our family and us. We all need each other to be better and keep on track and be a team. I am so motivated by that and our boys. I lose my way without that and I want to be her reflection and motivation as she has been that for me. I truly thought we brought out the best in each other when we were together.

I remember when we were given tickets to see Fiona Apple. That was so spontaneous and a great way to kick off our time in Denver together. We always used to watch our same movies over and over again. Like the Friends DVDs and White Christmas every winter break and The Wedding Singer. We walked everywhere and lived simply. "I wanna be the guy, who grows old with you"

I remember in our first Denver apartment when we took baths together in our claw foot tub in the big bathroom. We put a board over the top and played cards. I liked playing Uno with her in bed too. She was so funny being slightly color blind and in the dark, mixing up the greens and blues. We played Uno in Breckenridge too at that cool bed and breakfast in the fall.

2006

We had continued fun and adventure in our new home of Denver. She was doing well as a trainer for the bank and I started working in health foods. We went camping in New Mexico a couple times with friends and we both took individual trips to Oregon as well as one together for her uncle's wedding. We had marital spats on occasion but always bounced back. The issues we had seemed like part of a normal marriage and were far better than what I had grown up around. I realized that marriage was a lot of work but I was up for the task. She occasionally became aggressive throwing things at me or breaking things during conflict.  I believed I was the problem and tried to change for her in many ways. With two incomes we still had trouble making our bills at times. She had debts that I never knew about that started to catch up with us but I took care of getting them settled and we paid off her car and traded it for an older Volvo Wagon that we both loved, I even had it repainted her favorite color for a birthday gift. Overall things seemed like they were progressing in a positive way.

I remember when we saw Midnight in concert in Boulder. That was the peak of our hippy days. We were alive with pleasure in our healthy vegetarian diets and practices living in a time and place like no other. I want to be like that again. Reggae was our music. We had much in common.

2007

We really fell into our roles in our marriage and the community; church and culture, friends etc. Things seemed very balanced and appropriate for us at that time and that age (24-25). We had separate bank accounts and jobs. I had money in savings. We started the process of buying a house so we could invest in something. She became pregnant shortly after. I embraced the challenge with positive energy but we were both in for a big change. We started having more fights. I didn't have many friends and would write to old friends via social media just so I could to catch up and tell them things were going great with being married to make myself feel better than I actually did. She hated the dawn of social media and also felt isolated I'm sure. She felt I should be doing more for her and I didn't know how to do what she needed but I failed to ask a lot of the time. After one argument, she left the house. My instinct told me to look at ******* and ******* as a retaliation. I had not done this much once we were married because she always met my needs but when things were difficult between us I felt more emotionally isolated. She walked in and realized what I had been doing. She was very upset, and because she was pregnant, thought I was not attracted to her. The truth is I found her even more beautiful and in fact when I looked at ******* I tried to look at women I found less attractive than her so that I feel good about what I have. I mostly fantasized about how these women were more submissive and loving than her. That is the part I needed to feel good about and feel better about myself with because I felt very dominated and controlled. She has never forgiven me for this and I will never stop feeling sorry to her for my brokenness. During one particular argument that year she was getting close to being violent towards me again and I pushed her away on the chest with my fingertips. She got very mad and said I hurt her. I immediately felt terrible and apologized. I never let something like that happen again. I have always avoided violence towards others especially women and of course her. I was defenseless against physical and emotional abuse.

2008

Our eldest son was born at the beginning of the year, it was a traumatic birth for everyone. We wanted a natural birth with a midwife but we were transferred to a hospital and she ended up having an emergency C-section, nothing went as planned. We had a really hard time coping with the emotions of this experience. A lot of buried feelings and trauma from both of us started coming out. We moved a month later into our new home outside of town. No more walking or biking to places, we had to drive everywhere. This house was next to our friends from church. We thought this would make us feel less isolated but we didn’t really have the community with them that we had hoped for. They were upset that they didn't have a child of their own yet and being around us might have been hard for them. My wife stopped working and stayed home with our son. All these changes made for a very difficult time. I did my best to support them but this was the first time we shared a bank account and needed to follow a budget more than ever before. We had no debt at the beginning of the year with money in savings but then the hospital bills put us down about $7,000 and rising with new home and moving expenses and baby needs. My job could barely keep up. She and I had a hard time adjusting. We could not afford to travel home to Oregon and visit family as much and we felt more and more isolated. She started showing me more signs of instability, locking herself in the bathroom with kitchen knives and scraping her legs which continued off and on for years to come. Talks of divorce and suicide threats seemed to happen more than before. I felt responsible and tried to fix her ever changing issues with me.

I remember when herr ******* were full and swollen with milk. It is so beautiful the way she could feed our babies. I wanted her in every way, our bodies belonged to each other. I was there for her and our shared pleasure. I loved it when she told me that she was mine in the heat of passion. This spark could only be a bandage for so long but I didn't know that yet.

2009

I tried to promote within my company but was not selected, they were cutting budgets and employment all around me. I felt worried about our future. I had always thought the military might be a good opportunity and could move us closer to family back home. My father-in-law encouraged me to look into the Coast Guard. I felt this would be a good way to get moved closer to Oregon.  I ended up joining the Navy because we found out we were pregnant again with our second son and that was the only way I could join a military branch. She worked off and on as a nanny and later in the year at a coffee house working nights. We barely spent time together and when we did it was a lot of hard conversations or arguments about finances with making up intimately in the middle of the night between times of caring for the baby. She once scratched my neck with her fingernails during an argument. People I worked with noticed. It was a hard time and we knew change was on the horizon with jobs and moving. We did visit Oregon that summer though and had a great vacation at the beach with a borrowed 4x4 and staying at a hotel and picnicking out of a cooler as well as going to her brothers wedding. I was 26 and about to join the Navy to provide better for my family at all costs sacrificing myself for their benefit because I would have rather died than look like I didn't try my best for them.

I remember when our babies would kick and move around inside her belly. I loved laying by her and feeling her tummy. I would hum to the baby and hear them move and squirm. I loved giving our boys baths when they were babies too. We had our little bundles of our love, wrapped in a towel in our hands, so tiny and vulnerable. I miss those days and want to remember them with her, aside from this state of melancholy.

2010

The Navy recruiters would only take me if we rented out our home and had her stay with family during boot camp and training. We moved to a furnished apartment in Denver and put our things in storage. She was 5 months pregnant and our eldest was two. I shortly after was let go from my job. Our second son was born in April. I got a contract with the Navy at the last minute but didn't leave until August. We sold our beloved vehicles and lived off retirement funds for six months and moved down to Florida where her parents had just moved out of the blue for work, to stay with them until I left for boot camp. I applied for temporary work in Florida at a dozen places but had no luck in my three months there. I took care of our eldest a lot while she took care of the new baby. Being in Florida was a culture shock for us but we had our moments of romance and made the best of it. Eventually I left for boot camp in August. It was really hard and sad to be gone. She stayed in Florida and came to visit me with the baby at boot camp graduation in October. I then went to Connecticut for five months of training. It was also hard but at least I could call home every day and be in the same time zone. I visited Florida during the winter break and saw my boys and her. We went to Disney world and had a great time on her parents. We also made a romantic home movie I could enjoy while away from her. I flew back to Connecticut and tried to make the best of things. My roommate was very abusive of substances and I resisted the temptation for a long time but the threat of being submarine service bound and missing my family pushed me to drinking every weekend and getting messed up to escape before I left.

I remember when we drove to Key Largo, Florida and stopped at a crazy bird wildlife center. I remember our oldest was so amazed hearing a bird say hello back to us. It was so foreign and fun there. I am glad we all shared that experience together.

I remember our trip to the citrus grove in Florida. That was such a great day for our family. I always look back on that with really fond sentiment. I felt like I was in a beautiful family music video with them.

2011

I finished Submarine Training and got orders back to the Northwest. The plan was all coming together. I arrived first and bought a car and got our items moved from storage in Denver to our townhouse rental in Washington. She and the boys joined me a month later. I didn't report to my Sub for another month as they were at sea. She became pregnant again with our third son right after arriving. We had just bought a small car and were not planning on another child. Towards the end of the year I was working a lot and having a really hard time, being bullied and treated poorly at work plus our financial situation was still very difficult. Adjusting to the military was hard among younger men being 28. I dreaded each day in that environment but I tried to endure it for my family. I went to sea for a couple months at the end of the year stopping in Hawaii and California. During this time She reached out to her ex married affair partner after six years of no contact. She didn't tell me until later. She said she needed closure with him, we were not in counseling yet but she decided this was appropriate. I flew home early from sea and wanted to surprise her. The stress and trauma of this quick transition home after being to sea for the first time (which was also traumatic) made me want to drink and get messed up before flying. I arrived home and surprised her but I seemed off to her which I was but didn’t explain why, I have never done that since. I got to be home for two months almost work free while we celebrated the holidays and prepared for the new baby to be born. She started getting more involved with a church and building a community for us which was great. Our financial struggles almost led us to foreclosure of our home back in Colorado but by the grace of God we got it sold with a short sale just in time.

I remember when I came back from Hawaii and brought her a beaded necklace and she wore it naked with her big beautiful pregnant goddess belly and we made passionate hippy love together. I want to grow out my beard again and spend my life making hippy love and feeling free again.

2012

Our third son was born in January. It was a very positive birth experience and much less stressful than the other two. Shortly after I flew out to finish the other half of the deployment I had missed. I really focused on being positive and spiritually connected by reading my Bible at sea which was helpful. I called her when I arrived in Japan halfway through being gone. She was upset because she tested positive for an STD while trying to get on birth control. I became suspicious of her yet she was suspicious of me. We both got tested again and I was clean, she told me she had a false positive after all. This put a big strain on our trust, especially being so far away. This forced us to be honest with each other about some things such as her contact with her ex lover and my drinking to cope. We were both very upset until I returned home and we could start some counseling to work through things. Forgiveness seemed to be difficult for us. It brought up hurts of the past when we were 19. She also had severe postpartum depression that became worse after each birth. I was still having a hard time with work and the submarine environment. Our church friends tried to counsel us but it was not the most helpful. My submarine was scheduled for extended repairs and not going to sea for three years, I would be transferred before the end of that period. I used this time to bond with her and my boys. I wanted to get better involved in our community and do volunteer work and side jobs to earn extra money. Our boys were all given diagnosis's for autism which begun to fill our lives with appointments and challenges for years to come but we were a good team in dealing with all of it. It gave us something to work together on but took our focus away from working on our own personal issues and relationship with each other as much as we should have.

2013

We had new years with both sides of our family in a snowy mountain setting in Oregon. It looked like it was going to be a great year until her Grandpa passed away suddenly. It ripped our entire family apart but especially her. He kept the family grounded and she was very close to him, he really loved all of us. She and I started going on dates again because we had Navy sponsored child care. It was the beginning of a really good thing for us. Tragically one night after a date we were dancing with the boys on the patio and I tried to pick her up and I lost my balance and fell on her, breaking her collar bone severely. She needed surgery and was very mad at me for years to come. She has a scar, a metal plate and numbness in her chest. We worked through it with our community from church but she still is very mad at me. I feel more terrible about this incident than she could ever know. I would lose a finger in place of that incident if I could. I continued having a really hard time in the Navy and I didn't want to stay in but She insisted our boys needed care only the Navy could offer. She also said she would divorce me if I ever left the Navy. I took this threat seriously even though she assured me later that she would never actually do that. Against my own convictions I reenlisted because I wanted to do the best thing for my family. We moved into base housing at the end of summer and didn’t go out to do things as much anymore. The house was nice but it ****** us in, we also had less community with people around our home. I started volunteering at church more and doing work with special needs people. I felt like I was doing good things and that I had purpose all around. I think she appreciated this about me.

2014

We started seeing a professional counselor together and individually. It became a regular event. I worked on myself and she worked on herself. I had a lot of issues with my Mom and eventually broke off communication with her for my own well-being and the betterment of my family. I got past a lot of the bad feelings I had. She worked on her traumatic experiences and our relationship dynamics. Just when things were going well I got a new boss who made things hard for me and others at work and I started messing up more. I got in trouble for messing up a job at work and was given strike one on my record. She lost respect for me as a provider but I tried to stay strong showing her that I would continue to do my best.

I remember when we had an appointment in Tacoma and we had a brunch date together afterwards. She looked so beautiful that day, I took her picture and was so proud to enjoy  huevos rancheros and momosas with her. I remember going to the Tacoma Art Museum seeing the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit, we have a great time together doing new things and feeding each other's interests. I loved laughing with her too, sometimes we just bust up like nobody's around. I loved the sound of her laughter. I loved watching Portlandia with her, it is so funny to remember the funny place where we became close and be able to relate together.

2015

I kept working hard and being involved with family and appointments for my boys and her. I still maintained my volunteer work and part time side jobs. I got strike two with the Navy for messing up again... I had just gained orders to leave the sub for local shore duty. I could not get out of the extended repair situation soon enough. She was very disappointed in me and not so understanding. I worked through this situation with our counselor as did she. He always told her I am a good man and that I do a lot for her and the boys. It's true, I care more than anything about them, I made mistakes and I feel bad especially when I cause my family stress. I left for shore duty in April. It was a hard time adjusting to the new routine but eventually we seemed to make it work. That summer we took a trip to visit Texas where her parents had just moved from Florida. We spent a great night together for our 10th anniversary in a hotel in Texas and went dancing. We had a lot more time together as my work schedule was less. The more people we had in our home working with our kids on issues the less useful my input seemed. I was not included as much in making family decisions because they all seemed to happen while I was at work, despite my objections. We tried to get our budget under control but she still had anxiety discussing spending. She continued to struggle with depression and was put on medication because she had still been harming herself. She was put on Prozac daily and anti anxiety medication as needed. He family members were not very supportive of medication which upset her but I always tried to be supportive in seeking help and continued care for both of us.

2016

We had a busy routine of kids in school now and home school and preschool and appointments for all of us. She wanted to go to church less and less. I started drinking a couple beers at night almost every day. I tried to mask my stress from her mood swings. She decided not to go to church at all anymore and focused teaching the boys about Jewish traditions exclusively which was hard for me to adjust to and confusing for the boys. I loved her and wanted to be supportive. As usual I was submissive and removed myself from the Christian church and some friendships. I feel like we lost our community at that point. We searched for a good place to have a new community with Jewish people but it was like starting over. I felt like I converted to Christianity for her when we got together and now I had to convert again, either way I would have done it for her because I loved her that much. The kids were confused by this change. After trying and failing at many synagogues we finally found one that seemed right for us.

2017

We finally had some money in savings because I kept it a secret and ended up planning a trip to visit her parents in Texas but it fell through due to lack of military flights. Instead we spent three nights away in a nice hotel resort as a family in February. We had three days of pure family time. Playing Battleship and other games in our room as a family, watching movies and eating at all the different restaurants and getting room service. Going swimming everyday in the foggy pool. I love our family and how we can have a great time together doing nothing but at the same time so much. That was so peaceful and relaxing. I wanted to keep doing things like that together as a family before our boys got too old. Shortly after this vacation she wanted to go back to school, then we bought a third vehicle so she could. Shortly after this she changed her mind about school and wanted to buy another house instead. I went along with it to please her and we practically killed ourselves trying to get the move accomplished with not much help or money. We had a good year over all. We got away for a romantic anniversary together in the summer. Just before the boys were going to start public school in the fall, her parents moved back to the area. She had anxiety with this and cut off contact with her parents and brothers for a while. Her Dad called me very upset and I tried to keep the peace until they reconciled. I was doing better with work and made up for lost progress as well as making arrangements to change jobs in the Navy to something more fitting. Since the boys started public school, I planned on leaving for Navy training in my new position after the beginning of the new year when they would be at a more settled place in their routine.

I remember when we went to the Olympic Club for our anniversary and we stayed there for a night away. We drove the long way through the countryside talking about new music that she wanted to share with me and she made notes of it on my phone notepad. We brought our own cooler and picnic that included Session Lagers and chocolate. We checked in to our room and made noisy bohemian love on the edge of the creaky bed in our small European room inches from the door. Then we went to the theater downstairs and watched the late showing of a really interesting Sci-fi movie "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets". We took showers and slept sweetly together. We made love again in the morning before we had a delicious brunch outside on the patio. We took the long way home and drove around on new roads and found our way out of cell phone reception. We figured out the road less traveled to get back to our home. We loved being alone and away together, just one night can make such a difference and mean so much.

I remember going to the Forest Theater to see Tarzan with our boys. That was such a great time. I would love to get our boys into theater and go see them someday. I wanted to keep our dreams and goals together alive and not lose opportunity and fall short by losing our partnership.

I loved going camping in Seabeck. Loading the truck with all our gear and getting away. Archer got sick from the cowboy caviar and I had to clean him and the tent up in the night. I was glad we had each other to be a team in our marriage in that situation as with all the other times. These sorts of things are what escape a person's mind when they are determined to get a divorce.

2018

We had a lot less money than the year before, again buying a house took its toll on finances as did the boys school and after school activities. I stayed very involved taking the boys to appointments and sporting practices. We stopped going to synagogue but tried to practice Judaism at home as much as possible, which I was very supportive of and involved with. She was still depressed and talking about suicide at times. I encouraged her to get help as I always had. Eventually she was diagnosed as Bipolar 2 and manic depressive by a new provider. She started taking new medicine for this and was worried I would want to leave her. I assured her I would never leave her and that I always wanted to work on things with her and help her. I left for training in Mississippi February 8th. It was going to be hard but I thought it might be good to have some time apart from each other to miss one another and reflect on things as well as prepare for times when I would be away at sea. I got in trouble in Mississippi for giving junior personnel a ride and being negligent of people who might be underage and possibly drinking, this became strike three. I never thought this could happen. I became recommend for separation from the Navy shortly after and was stuck in Mississippi for six months instead of six weeks. She was supportive through most of it but seemed to fall into hopelessness. Money was spent by her that we didn't have without discussion. She quietly leased appliances and tires and purchased a vehicle as well as having a secret bank account and email address. I discovered through our insurance company that she wanted to leave our policy for divorce. I didn't know this and she had even told the boys she wanted a divorce before I even knew. I was caught off guard and confused. I kept trying to communicate and reason with her but she didn't want to talk. I refused to give up and wrote emails and a letter but it only seemed to push her away further. By the time I left Mississippi she had filed for divorce and a restraining order against me saying I was unstable and a threat. I couldn't return to my home. My whole life fell apart in just a couple months. I found out she had been talking to other men in the Navy and keeping more secrets. I assumed this was her way of taking control during a difficult situation. I really needed her support during this hard time of transition out of the military. I became homeless, jobless and without my family in a month. I prayed to God that given time things might change between us but it was of no use. Bipolar had consumed whatever was left of my bride and there was no turning back.

I felt that our love was not one to be cast away. Other people might not understand or agree but what we had was truly special. We may have surely needed some time and space to get counseling as well as reconfigure and repair our marriage but I didn't feel like our relationship was irretrievably broken. She was so important to me and I thought she was the love of my life and would always have my heart. I wanted to be her partner in love and life, watching our boys grow up and being there to support each other. Being that she is Bipolar I knew she will need a lot of help and I was more than willing to assist her in making sure she was taking care of herself and not throwing herself into harm's way, ensuring she sticks with a plan we agree to for consistency. I cared about her deeply and had much compassion for her. I didn't believe she was thinking this through or thinking about the future. I really wanted to look at the long and short game with her, neither seemed appealing to me if we progressed but here we are. Things are not going to be easier. She will still have to face her problems and deal with me on a regular basis for the rest of our lives no matter what happens. She can believe her lawyer when they promise she'll get the moon and stars out of this in the end but they only see half of the story. Above all they want our money. It would have been good for her to face me in person and tell me she wanted to divorce and we could have started talking about it with a counselor to figure out how that could even work. Instead she chose to avoid as much responsibility for her actions as possible by doing everything in my absence as if I am not a real person. I had to find out about it from our insurance company and was last to know.

Immediately after I hear the word divorce I looked into her cell usage history and find she has a new military boyfriend that she talks to 20-30 times a day. She felt she owed me no explanation for this and it was none of my business. A mature person would have let me know about this months before and I would have seen it coming but there was no sign until it was seemingly too late. She strayed down a dark path and never turned back.

Her proposed parenting plan was cruel and had no thought put into it. Two hours a week with supervision, no holidays but father's day? She said she’s not trying to keep me from the kids but this is the exact opposite of what she’s saying with the paperwork she filed. She seems very mixed up and still you continues to make rash and sudden choices. Like a completely bogus restraining order against me that contradicts so many facts she has stated herself on record during my Navy retention process. She was so bold as to want to change her identity and even put it in ink on the divorce paperwork as well to a whole new name. That is not the actions of a stable person. She has since changed her mind again on that just as quickly as everything else in her recent life choices. I can't trust that any decisions she is making right now are for the right reasons or that she is of sound mind. I have never seen her so conflicted and confused, grasping at straws and running scared from herself.

Using the legal system so carelessly and going back and forth makes me feel like she is not ready to be making big choices and changes for her and our family. It is very unfair that she can’t consider my feelings on things and what I wish for the boys as well. Very reckless behavior. She can’t anticipate that the day would come where she has to face me and talk to me like an adult. She wants to hide behind the legal system which only leaves much to be unresolved. Ghosting me is not really an option in a marriage of 13 years with children.

Having relationship conversations is too difficult for her at this time and she would rather avoid it and skip to divorce because she thinks that will somehow be easier. I suspect she knows she is making poor choices, possibly out of fear and lust for something new and less painful than the reality of things right now. Our marriage was nowhere close to divorce when I left. She was sad to see me leave and woke with me at 3:30 am to say goodbye, making me coffee and cookies for me to take with.

Our community and accountability seems to be gone due to the continued trend of isolation that she is drawn to. The God fearing loving committed wife I thought I had is gone or trapped inside a terrified shell of herself. She cut me off from her family members and I can't discuss my concerns about her with them either. She only seems to have community with those who are not going to discourage her from these destructive choices.

I understand we have had issues and struggles but we are no worse off than other couples during challenging times. I think that because we loved each other so much it just hurt more when things got hard. I can't accept or believe this is justified or the right choice based on the positive trend we were on before I left. This was the longest break we have ever had from each other and I think she just needed someone to be there more for her, no matter who it was. Time can heal all wounds and I hope that is true for our relationship as co-parents.

She still refuses to tell me about why she wanted a divorce or talk about anything beyond caring for the kids. I have fought the restraining and I can see my boys again but I am still not allowed to my home without her permission.

I have risen from the ashes in just a couple months. I rent a room from a nice couple from our old church and obtained a good paying job while I continue paying the household bills.

This is a really hard time, this difficult spell could have been a tool to better our relationship. I wanted to experience more beautiful memories with her. We had so many more beautiful memories and dreams left to create. This is what marriage looks like to me now as I lower the casket.
This is a timeline of the major events during my 13 year marriage. Amidst the reality, I injected all the lovely memories that refuse to leave my mind.
Esther May 2016
i think i’m starting to hate writing.
i think i’m starting to regret the nights i stayed up
trying to find the right word
for the right sentence.
i think i’m starting to grieve over the trees i killed
so i could spit out poems
and then throw them away.
what good has it done besides leave me
with endless lines of dissatisfaction
and baggy eyes?
what good has it done besides isolate me
and force me to spend my waking hours
in solitary confinement
within my own sphere of words?
and all it's given back to me is
a crowd of imaginary friends
i only know how to speak to
through ink.
i think i’m starting to loathe these so-called “friends.”
they were only inky caricatures i wished into existence.
when i poured my heart out, sobbed into their pages,
because writing is “therapy,”
all they did was stare back
and let me inhale more ink
and exhale more words.
but they didn't warn me when i inhaled too much
and let the ink overflow my lungs,
clog up my throat,
bleed everything over in black.
they didn't warn me when the ink started
killing me inside out.
i think i’m starting to hate writing
for
i have become a corpse,
slumped over my desk
—decaying,
as unfinished sentences leak out of my mouth
and bleed past my ears,
cascade like tears
down my cheeks
but i,
i am only trying to read the missing words.
I'm losing passion in what I once loved so much.
Tom Leveille Aug 2014
and here i am again
at the intersection
of pedestrian language
& old wives tales
swallowing gum
like 7 year memories
opening umbrellas inside
cause i can't seem get away
from all of this rain
i ******* with my left hand
cause i was told
back in highschool that
"it feels like someone else is doing it"
it gets me wondering
about the difference between
losing you and finding out
that some one else found you
or my sleep
or lack thereof
its starting to tear me apart
i keep having this dream
where you are in
an unfamiliar body of water
trying to wash my poetry
off of your hands
or the one where
something happens in my chest
every time you sit
on someone else's bed
i'm tired of feeling like something you've misplaced
but don't have the heart
to look for anymore
tired of you saying my name
like you're trying to bury it
i'm tired of wondering
if you can tell the difference
between the absence
of my voice & silence
the other day
i almost started sobbing
at work when a woman
asked me about
our equipment
i was explaining how
things come apart
and almost mentioned your name
it made me think
of how you used to say
things like "what would you do
if i showed up on your doorstep
one day?" now, i haunt
the windows in my house
i don't leave for weeks at a time
i sit on the porch like the dog
you didn't shoot behind the shed
the one that refuses to die
until you come home again
i told somebody once, that
you didn't even know
what my voicemail sounded like
i wonder if they thought
it was because you
are so important that i never
let it ring that many times
before picking up
or if you dont know
what it sounds like
because you've never called
you can't be the ****** weapon
and the search party
i'm tired of all the seats
to the ferris wheel in my chest
being empty
tired of your voice
being the one i look for
in abandoned places
that one sound i beg
to bounce back
down vacant hallways
i just seem to stand there
in all of that quiet
like someone looking for a mistake
on an eviction notice
so i guess the hardest part
isn't letting go
it's forgetting
you ever had a grip
in the first place
and since you've been gone
i wonder if when
you pushed yourself away from me
you used your left hand
so it felt like someone else did it
like know just time mind life feel world lost say we're things think love there's does people night away way thought got words long reality want better left make end eyes day man human dark experience remember really right death memory going place high good live city thoughts soul meaning great pain home sky believe shall change living oh fall light choice god consciousness existence years cause hard feeling thinking fear times 'cause dreams ask alive heart need past felt days dream sensation truth true use power knowledge wrong stars understand baby tell state thing face wave broken old you'll wave new broken nature you'll **** mental look far ah drug moment best ago air lose sleep dare try leave beautiful blue born lives escape sublime doesn't body dawn friends waiting feels young daze game control perception gone story mean sun head given writing act difference reason poetry philosophy psyche little trying touch deep greatest wonder choose drugs exist we'll moments score hold play 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ethics survived definition reasoning internet feedback vibrancy serotonin cyclone hacker sardonic surreality virtuality here's he's sunyata temporality ******'s empathos apotheotelos flash shining green forever anger carry son moon selfish written supposed feed ya quite loop hooked pure feet hole paper flag sick voice burning attention fly utter wicked tremble endless form infinity talking piece shores verse chest rules food placed plan hallelujah called gun fading drinking emotional measure inspiration suffering belong west read sly instead bear erase furious shame conclusion drunk roll ******* depressed calls taught died defined tire everyday answers sacred acknowledge speaks perfection games ground spoke stood motion sway keeping pretend hell movement magic park key spin kick sake jump hanging animal begins orange streetlights fade crazy honest warp puppet chained survive apathy chains claim prey science diamonds begging grip tale hang powerful wonderland heal dealing plant twice painful daylight mastery desires recall school conviction miracle yearn empyreal weekend actual court value chalk hurts humankind rabbit eggs potential offers temporary pupil atlas nostalgia serenity happens yearning ponder hypothesis worthy witnessed ideas azure tools alpha curiosity consume singularity typhoon revelation stimulant liberate application projection criminals communication throes fraternity enables actuality starshine ethos apotheosis sardonicism aren't mind's teleology empatheon entheos hear mydriatic transcendention fight tear ash minutes wanna taking nights forgot tales lest desire lust darkest single shine slow allow destruction money comes anxiety contemplate nostalgic offer continue happen ink brings brave created holding create thunder produce talk sail philosopher creating distant illuminating drive dancing ease wishing higher pass excuse figure essence angel hopes child ahead sigh using door vast loves awaits strong tornado ok sorrow immortal ghosts certain remains stained insane reached lot discovered plain poison streets killing ending tried session vs poor woke stare watching grass slick emptiness falling box painter series children virtues awareness clean rolling reach advice heavens rend half cherish bay started relax focus laughed ashamed fiend melody drop exhale void occurs beneath win chose robes thrall shield ended sons normal sunrise road forged onward burden actions unlike colors curious street observe chosen silence shades returns technology race vengeance swept bag civilization strive reconcile trouble cloud described replaced substances whilst finding euphoria dear chemistry events deal message eternal masses beliefs vision apparent honestly dr seeing idea domain soar books frames rule law pleasures eat dread bare blaze raise compassion kindness wandered objects expressed sin declare mistake smoking drum heavenly honor lands fountain renew happening aspect gotten issues divinity teach matters pills goal follows significant job romantic gazed envelope elements identity group sell foolish lucid dimensions brothers owe education november difficult recognition express properties glitter considering illusion appreciate discover resonance derived transcendental buzz notion risk scares riot rainy teaching drizzle direct experiences elation normality quote evolution versus lamplight method reflective endeavour cloth eats teenagers eventually haul club result relative breed threat subjective concerning solstice interpretations allows rational ultimately basis aligned numbness hypocrite charade morality dope chaser continuum undead exploits aeons research freeman appropriate ion ****** teachings dilation binge beatific intuitive transcendent escapism psychedelia metaphysical beta untitled mescaline otherworldly dreampt contextual experiential symbiosis codex dissociation cybernetic weren't life's let's mirror's well-being any-more entheogenic junkiedom signifiers mescalito zero-summing won't 'pataphysics window 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current raised travel scratch haunts played women apathetic conquest naught goodbye midnight asking passed waste loss fallen rapture absolute positive walked mistakes lately bound patience nurture fog stranger men wants prevent forfeit asks arose easy quick sing allowed prove pitch mad closest deeply tides praying root poets sentence pulse nightmare deem coffee commit golden insert mock innocent whispers offend low tea strength captured attack stories baseline joint innocence neural chemicals plains blanket dripping reflect blink concepts psychosis plucked tidal radiance roar bathed wonders thrown moves suffer unspoken exists glad shroud plunge scorn bane asunder enslaved harvest possibly fail allure drank danger unsaid veil gravity assume sum receive bloom reveal odd whispered likes news fractured wisely gathered seraphim intention wrought plane weeks mere haunting aspects ha distance hungry eternally swaying eden foretold breach advance pains balance design event forgive significance confidence error alter paying unreality cost chronology thoroughly resembles vivid steal poetic illegal understands maelstrom temples amidst perpetual lesson pathos behold reborn produces scale heaviness ascend talked **** forsake valuable andor relinquish dismiss usually kid nervous sort fierce disguise demands abandon encourage avoid minor relentless identify loneliness web alchemy cosmic rhyme coil suffered basking dropped standard spark mates hearth swore steam myth native wonderfully occasionally solace ventures determination galaxy opportunity justify political prophecy steadfast healthy forsaken chapter facebook worried ex struggle shatter gentleman including convinced profit comfortable twine deity responsible adrift sage fortune immortality theft damage examine deliverance ultimate immersion response access test physics magnitude occur member relation acts theme signal shivers mire coin planet anybody vicious nirvana pendent applause glimmering benediction consuming glint refrain renewal myths manifest nocturnal reflections limitations teenager naturally material matrix columbine giveth inseparable singular proving lifestyle coherence humane ideals starlight sincerely prudence underworld infamous perspective presented pretends excitation viewed regard enhanced zen reverence arcadia theory realization typing construct statement subjugated exploration vote hazy reaper **** streetlight artificial trespass definitive device exceed complex finality surreal petrol proposition inspiring totality originally recurring narcotic cometh juxtaposition reckoning represent inability proclamation syntax continuity nevermind avoidance irrelevant veracious arcadian commence rumination aesthetics ubiquitous nonetheless variable exploit experiencing underlying villain cola rictus ketamine corporeal electronic graciously input cannabis manifestation comprised socially proportionate insofar ethical hedonism junkies vicissitudes cognitive determining psychiatrist palindrome lucidity remix reduction dissociative reclamation detract aer enhancement intoxicants qualia world's shouldn't wouldn't other's nothing's man's summer's today's who'd everybody's y'all 'the all's t'was ethereality thought's drug's noumenon skystruck shroom alexithymia transhuman you- -the in-between self-sufficiency -one zed's 15 11 liminality immanence adrenergic symbionts sublimeoblivious medina's buckfast psychonautes determinative serotonergic psychedelos skyglow cyclica 5-ht2a noumena pharmahuasca jeans role proper loud aching grows concrete cruel strains conversation ill paint wet couple calling mouth kiss senses case keeper torn pause middle setting whats pulling bone reminds likely remind wrath karma reading sunlight prone ***** phrase enemy familiar levels careful source adolescent small straight driving courage rush flaw suppose starting deny stayed weary worship trust turbulent troubled letting absence leaving wearing college proclaim spirits gather ear lady hey garden boys winning alcohol pay foolishly banish song cross encounters plays belonging famous shift burst alice tunes hood flickers glimpse gleam fleeting grant ride deja vu anticipation spot switch boyfriend order faded wrapped definitely short fish beach clock older dusted block station anchor longest deserve passing mark awhile lovers muse ache island totally existing comfort pride phone greek apollo bleeding unknown psychic powder remembrance tree train helps painted gambling tide tired acting blow build apologies silver fabric especially suspense band cascade flawless heat hunger nearly numb bread bright minus wide looks differently dive beating veins settle turning couch holds saying impression suspension meaningless plastic rich pointless occupied brief tiger sticks stones mask cake bitter concentrate drown forbidden shell dry walks unless regardless moved type shirt lone burns songs negative momentary staying police swing unseen ability analysis worries determined dreamt sink hopelessly chances abuse palm week existed ignorant blind dice sheep agree joke spy spill odds immeasurable *** pushing wanderlust softly midst presents blade guided ripped round ball lovely rhythms beats cars glaze wash fates evening vein gloss juvenile sides faces graces month circular rung wheel rises permeates father supreme portal liked rip fades october sitting grin showing surrounded explored opened confused wall quietly deftly scene sighs lingering radio altered evaporated suns dreamed vibration important appetite exactly devil inhabiting brains ordinary beckons constant local organic soothing linger meditation moonlight lads height ethereal simplicity kinda cigarette suggest violence blew bombs arise trips predict surface guy movements grey car stepped large bank forward landed lied ancient purely crash direction inspired release warned melodic rhythmic telling mysticism blues riddle blur floating drama neck lover nerve poisonous glare factory wage character suburbia escaped gates suspended followed pierced hall marks ruled influence functioning contained losing stopping effect electronica relate fed temper facts dependent malleable convey bent delve horror wolves won lacking certainly fooled temple oblivious watches extension molecular random subtlety rem price sear covers truths judging stage frost conditions victory millennium realised confront trickster eve daughter defines awoke terror remembere
Composed on 00:53, 21/09/2016 using Hello Poetry's 'Words' algorithm. We don't assume this means something.
Pat Rooney Feb 2014
Saturday  Afternoon

Im sitting in a pub drinking coffee
Theres a big crowd already in
Most of the boys are drinking Guinness
Except for an old doll drinking gin.

There's horse racing starting  on the tv
and the guys start reading the form
The noise is starting to get louder
The bar 's starting to get warm.

I can see that the guys aren't winning
You can tell by the sound of their sighs
But theres a fast horse starting to run now
Their moneys on at sixes and fives

The ***** is starting to work good
Its doing its usual routine
The old girl is starting to drop off
And the guys are begining to sing

Its just a usual ***** Saturday
Like the ones that went by before
A weekend of drinking and gambling
Finish your drink and away out the door.

I dont know why I'm sitting down here
Theres nothing at all here for me
Except some long gone memories
and a want for how things used to be.

So i rise and finish off my cold coffee
And head for my house down the street
A want in my guts for a cold beer
And a shot of  strong whiskey drank neat
           Pat Rooney 2013
Alexia Côté Jul 2014
Someone just said something about me,
It’s starting to drive me crazy,
Oh please don’t make it start again,
This isn’t a feeling that can be supported by any men,

My thoughts are beginning to race,
At much too fast of a pace,
I keep trying to make it stop,
I can already feel myself drop,

It’s called anxiety,
Oh there goes gravity,
Here comes insanity,
And everyone’s pity,

I’m starting to lose control,
I can’t feel myself as a whole,
I need help,
I need help,

Here we go again,
I can’t wait for,
The moment when,
My head stops its own war,

It’s called anxiety,
It’s not ending anytime now,
It’s being juged in our society,
It’s not something we should allow,

It’s called anxiety,
Oh there goes gravity,
Here comes insanity,
And everyone’s pity
Sheila M King Jun 2016
Not sure if it’s worth it, not sure if we try…
Just how far we may get before we wonder why
Learn from past mistakes, lessons well taught
Memories always there; remind you what you’ve got
Can we be honest? Will there be any doubt?
Can we really try to work all past things out?
-Starting over, can start things over-
Like what ended once before
Starting over can start a new thing; and tell us if it’s sure
We can start out as friends, friends who try not to judge
Friends who need each other & will not hold a grudge
Help with each other in areas we may need adjusting
Open, honest, and truthful- we both need to be more trusting
Our past is in the past, over, said & done-
We’ve had some time apart, alone & having fun…
Question is are we ready…to start all over again?
Will there be to much already “undone” for us to understand?
Do we dare to try to pick up the things we lost, and stick around to see how it ends-
No matter what the cost?
Neither one quite sure the way we want it to be-
Can’t live without you- you can’t live without me
We know there must be changes that both of us must make
Chances and decisions, choices to take-
I feel at lost of words that express both doubt and hope
Pressure of what we cannot see & willingness to cope
Are we sure that’s what we want, or is it just a desire?
Can’t stand the flame of someone else setting your heart on fire-
Still not knowing if we’ll make it- hoping neither of us fake it
Starting over, a new beginning- either we’ll be losing or winning
Just do our best through each trial and test; talk things over as a friend–
I think we can do it and both get through it, and keep starting over from being the end
I'm on a train.

One of those red ones with black trimmed windows you can imagine rolling through the suburbs on the way to NYC. Not a subway car but a classier vintage with proper rows of cushioned seats and a lever to pull if there is an emergency. There are sparse shrubberies on one side of the tracks and the ocean on the other. Young trees and bushes stroll by.  A little wind is pushing off the ocean, massaging the car ever so gently back and forth as we move along. A gentle click-clack is on the tips of our ears.

We got on together. I hadn't known you for very long but the connection was stronger than anything I had ever felt or have since. You practically sat on top of me for the first few miles. Couldn't keep your hands off me,  staring in my eyes like you were searching for something lost but you couldn't remember what. The edges of your lips turned upwards permanently as if you were always at the verge of a laugh. You interlaced my fingers with yours and held on like you would be ripped away if your grip loosened for even a second. Slender fingers holding so tightly that they were becoming red.

You were excited to to be riding with me, about where we were going and all the things we would do when we got there. I would see you peer out of the corner of your eye, then lean over to brush your soft cheek against my budding stubble. Kissing and gently biting my lips insatiably. The suns rays coming in at an angle and lighting up your perfect smile and dimple.

I had to remind you we were in public.

I was lost in your blonde curls and the incense of your neck. I had fallen incredibly hard and so fast that my face hurt from smiling and my heart beat with vibrations I had never known. Not even a whiff of anxiety or neurosis. Some of the best memories of my life, as fleeting as they turned out to be.

I yawned and you put your finger in my mouth. I bent over to tie my shoe and you would poke my **** and laugh with your own reflection in the window, like this was the first and best joke of all time. Maybe it was and maybe it is.

The waiter came and informed us that a thing called "the bar car" existed. We both jumped at the idea. I didn't exactly notice at the time, during our excitement, but that's when the train started going faster and everything out the windows began to blur.

The bar car was a wild ride and we took advantage of our lo'cal. All kinds of fine wine, liquors and illicit substances were available. We tried them all. You were beautiful, your laugh infecting everyone around you, I was charming and held a captive audience.   It was a dark, loud and glorious blur. We were the life of the party and it chugged on till dawn.

We woke up in our seats, disheveled and discombobulated. It was dark out already. Did we sleep through the entire day? The train was slowing down, maybe approaching a station. The party was amazing but we were certainly paying the price for the black out. You moved over to the seat across from me to have some more space and lay down. I saw myself in the reflection. My hat, charm and smile from the night before had vanished. I must have left them in the bar car the night before.
      You had changed, beauty uninterrupted but different somehow. I couldn't put my finger on it. Irritated maybe? I invited you to cuddle and battle the hangover together but you ignored me. Like you couldn't hear me or didn't want to. I decided to let you be.

I got up to use the bathroom and thought I would go look for my scattered belongings. Maybe I could find a scrap of leftover dignity while you rested. I inquired to the conductor who directed me to the bartender in the bar car. He hadn't changed a bit, somehow untouched and unaffected by last nights antics that had effected me so dramatically.  Same black suspenders and white pressed shirt with impeccably slicked hair. I asked him what happened and if I had an open tab. While slowly polishing a rocks glass he looked up and made eye contact for a split second before looking away.
He said:  "Oh the bar car takes its toll. In the end we all end up paying one way or another". I still don't know what he meant by that or if he knew.
      I asked him if he found my hat and he said he would check the camera. We walked in to a small back room, while he was reviewing the tape, over his shoulder I noticed a tragedy.

We were drunk. I was going on to a group of new friends on one side of the bar, they were hanging on my words and I was eagerly explaining whatever nonsense they were drooling over. You were in the corner wearing that red dress I love, with your hair up in a tight bun. A few curls had escaped and brushed your high cheekbones, a thin line of pearls dancing delicately across your perfectly symmetrical collar. You were stunning and inebriated, swaying with each bump and motion of the train. A man wearing my hat put his hand on your side to keep you from swaying over and then he left it there.
I took a sharp breath.

It looked like you put your hand on his hand to move it but then it stayed and you both swayed together. As the air left my lungs and the blood drained out of my face I watched your lips touch the strangers. A small piece of my soul slipped away forever. I couldn't watch any further. When I asked the bartender how long it went on he fidgeted for a moment and uncomfortably muttered "quite some time". I never found my hat or the other part of me that left that day.  

The train slowed. I walked to the back, as far away from you as I could get, in utter disbelief. How could you? I thought to myself.
I mourned the loss of the you as I knew you yesterday, quietly and to myself. A tear  escaped my eye and rolled down my now fully formed stubble as I fell in to a random seat in mild shock. There were a few passengers back there so I had to pull together relatively quickly. After gaining some composure I knew it was time to get off. I knew we could never get back to yesterday morning though I would have said or done anything to do so.

The train had stopped. I went back to my seat and you were sleeping. I took my coat and gathered my things. The conductor looked at me confused as to why I would leave something so magnificent, I assume he had no idea what had transpired.   

I walked to the rear of the car and slid the door open slower than required. I stepped to the stairs and put one foot down on the step and the other on the ground. I stopped, rooted with my hand on the railing, lingering between two very different paths.
     I knew that it was time to get off, I knew this was the sensible thing to do, that I couldn't get past this offense regardless of how I had felt earlier the day before. The whistle screamed from the locomotive. The conductor looked at me and shook his head, I'm not sure if he was trying to tell me to stay or go but a decision had to be made.

The train lurched forward and I watched as the station slip away slowly. I sat in between the cars for a while and watched the ocean and birds. With a heavy heart and shoes I walked back to my seat. You were waiting. Crying. You knew. The bartender had told you. You didn't mean do do it, didn't realize what you were doing and thought it was me. He was wearing my hat and the whole world was blurry and dark.

I believed you. Self anguish mixed with alcohol was dripping from your pores. I knew you didn't mean it and were drunk, but could I ever forgive you or trust you again?

I loved you still.

I caught a glimpse of my reflection, a weaker version of myself looked back. As if an invisible chip in my teeth had developed and my shoulders lowered. The charming, confident man from the bar car the day before had been replaced. Something was off but not enough for anyone else to notice, just enough to know a change has happened.
       The train started to pick up speed again as we distanced ourselves from the station.  I second guessed my decision to stay but I didn't look back.

I found the man with my hat and punished him with a few blows in the dark. He knew he ****** up, apologized and took the beating like a man. I never got the hat back.

The engineer announced that we would be going through a tunnel soon and to turn on our lights and keep our hands in the windows.

It would be dark.  

We stayed away from the bar car for a while but the draw was irresistible. After a few hours we were there again but you never left my side.  Then you did. I was looking for you but you would disappear and not answer me when I called you name. The tunnel went deeper and darker and I didn't know where you were and I suspected you liked it that way. The train began to slow down again as we exited the tunnel.

I finally found you back at our seat, you had moved one row away from me. I asked you to come back, tried to hold your hands but you pulled away with vehemence. When I came back from the bathroom you had moved another row farther.
I knew I was losing you.
I begged you to return but you told me calmly that it was time for you to get off. At some point in the tunnel you had decided that you didn't want to go anymore . Your mind was made. You were going to catch another train at the next station.

When the train stopped I thought for sure you would reconsider but you didn't. Didn't even give it a thought. You just grabbed your coat and hat with one big bag under your arm. You kissed me on the cheek like a french stranger and were off. Going somewhere else on a different train. Just like that.

I rode the rails for quite some time by myself , many people getting on and getting off, passing me by. Every once in a while I would think I saw you at a station or in a **** though the window of another train. I often thought I could smell you but when I breathed deeper it was always gone. A ghost dancing on the edge of my senses.

A young girl in a headband got on the train. She was listening to headphones and dancing to herself as she bobbed along. She sat down in the seat next to me flashing a smile. She had a wedding ring on and I dismissed her immediately.  She didn't move from the seat or stop glancing my way. Eventually she confessed that she wanted to talk. I told her I wasn't interested but she persisted.  I hadn't talked to anyone on the train for quite some time and after some more mild persistence, I gave in.

We had a lot in common. We were both riding alone, desperately wanted attention and were thrilled to receive some.  After a few laughs she slid her hand in to mine and interlaced her fingers. I left it there. It was warm, comforting and wrong. She was married but I had been riding alone so long it felt good to have some company. She stayed and we talked. She was broken and I had a knack for fixing things. After a few hours of dramatic conversation I fell asleep with her head on my shoulder.

When I woke up  the train was flying up the track on the side of a mountain. Trees and rocks were a blur of green and grey. The engineer must be trying to make up for lost time I thought to myself.

The girl was asleep with her head on my lap. I looked down at her hand and the rings were gone. I woke her briefly to ask where they went. She said she didn't need them anymore and had thrown  them out the window.  She could of sold them, I said, but she said she just wanted them gone so she could be mine and fell back to sleep.  All of a sudden I couldn't breath. This train was roaring down the tracks, the once gentle click clack had become a loud hum. Suddenly too loud. This girl in my lap who had just gotten on the train wanted to stay. I considered her for a while as she looked up at me with big blue eyes, shining and wet, like a puppy in the shelter, terrified of rejection and desperate to be adopted.

At the peak of the mountain, just when the train began to even out, you waltzed back in to the car with a champagne flute in one hand and your bag in the other.

I don't know when or where you got back on, must have been a few stations ago when I stopped looking for you. Maybe you were wearing a disguise, who knows what you had been up to while you were gone. I'm not sure how long you were away but it was quite some time. That you had been through something was obvious, a new wrinkle had formed on your brow and you're once confident stride had changed to a cautious stroll. What actually happened out there I don't know.  I never asked and I don't want answers.

You looked at me and smiled. It was good to see that smile, like sun on my face on a brisk day.  You took a step toward me and then I looked down in my lap at the girl at the same time you did. I looked up. You and your smile were gone.

Everything I had begun to feel for this broken, head banded girl in my lap dried up like a puddle in  the dessert.  I quietly and gently nudged her awake and told her I had to use the bathroom. She put her head down on my coat and fell back into what ever trance she had been in, eyelids gently fluttering, eyes searching beneath them for what I would never give her.

I dashed up the isle and threw open the door, almost shattering the glass. The conductor glared at me and rolled his eyes as I barged past to the space between the cars.

There you were. Standing on the stairs with your head out the opening. The wind was blowing your perfectly formed curls around your head like a blonde explosion of familiarity. I yelled your name and you dove in to me. My senses erupted, my mind went numb as the train was nearing another station and I inhaled your essence greedily.

We moved to another car. I abandoned my coat with the married girl and never looked back. I hope she found what she was looking for. I  never could have been the answer she was so desperately seeking but I know I  helped steer her towards it.

You told me you had encountered some other people out there on the rails and they had reminded you of what we had when we first left the station. I never forgot.  

The train started to rock and get going again. We were back in the bar car and starting to brown out. We had to get off of this train right ******* now. In a desperate moment we looked at each other and put our hands, together, on the emergency brake cord. I looked in your eyes with your hand on top of mine. You kissed me while yanking down on the cord. Time slowed, the breaks squealed and everything exploded throwing luggage, people and the entire contents of the bar car in to a nondiscriminatory chaos . We got up off the ground, ran to the end of the car, dove off the side in to a soft patch of grass and rolled down a small incline. We watched as the conductor sifted through  the mess and interrogated the passengers, trying to ferret out the party responsible for pulling the brake. He spotted us off the side of the tracks and shook his fist while shouting every conceivable obscenity combination.

We laughed, held each other in the grass and kissed deeply.

We watched the train pick up speed and disappear in to the hills as relief spread over me.

You interlaced your fingers in to mine and we both looked out to where the tracks disappeared into the horizon, wondering how far of a walk it was to the next station.
Lacey Michele May 2013
i'm starting over,
forging my own path,
with new faces, and new places,
and nothing to tie me down.
i'm starting over,
taking a new perspective,
no more waiting, no more watching,
no more second guessing myself.
i'm starting over,
from this day forward,
i will be strong, i will move on,
and i will live my life.
i'm starting over,
and it'll be wonderful.
lately i've been thinking a lot about how i have been living vs. the way i want to live. i've decided i need to believe in myself more and do the things that make me happy, not what others want me to do.
The Dreamer Teen Aug 2013
It's been nine years now. Nine years since the angels took you away. Nine years since I stood at the home, looking at your peaceful face; eyes closed, a ghost of a smile gracing your lips. It doesn't seem that long. It seems like yesterday you were calling me your little princess; I'm still that little girl at heart. The one who believed she would grow up to be a beautiful elegant contessa. I don't have many memories of the times we shared as I was only young when you passed. In fact, sometimes I struggle to picture your gorgeous, smiling face telling me stories of your past of advice for when I grew into an elegant older woman just like you were then.

I was only 6... 6 years old and I had to go through the pain and heartache of having my nan cruelly taken away from me. I'll be 16 next year. I'll be having my prom next year. I will be leaving year 11, getting my GCSE results and starting A-levels next year. So much has happened in these 9 short, short years. There is so much more to come and you won't be here to share it with me. My graduation from university, my first career move, my marriage, my children... Your great-grandchildren. You won't be here for the good times, the bad...The happy and the sad...

There are certain qualities about you that I will always remember... Being made banana sandwiches every time we went round to your house! Having a Sunday roast with you and Granddad every single week! Your 60th birthday (I knocked Zack down and felt so chuffed!) The last birthday you ever spent with me... You made my birthday cake that year... If I remember correctly, it was a princess castle with all the Disney princesses stood around it! You told me I deserved a cake because I was a beautiful princess also.

I know you will be looking down on me and the family just to make sure we are alright! I just hope it's a smile on your face and not a frown! I hope I have made you proud nan... I really do. I hope you Rest In Peace nan and I will never forget you. Forever in our hearts and minds. 15/06/2004... We love you nan and always will. <3
(twas where aye met thee missus, but mooch as a natural euphoria experienced, i rarely returned to said venue, especially for many years when thy now na grown lovely lasses merely toddlers).
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Go ahead and AskJeeves (or another available partner yea, that lonely looking gal or guy in mom genes), who can never refuse to kick up heals in this rollicking shenanigan – the rumor holds that said activity the most fun one can have with being clothed to another.
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The caller will usually do a walk thru, which begins with the first two couples closest to the stage crew of lively musicians (frequently filling the makeshift hall with music aligned the genre of irish jigs and reels) beginning to pair off.
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After couples one and two (nearest the band) complete their quartet, this process (sans participants coupling off) continues until the foot of the line.
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Actually each duo of dancers within the foursome nearest or furthest from the podium dons the role of “first and second” couple respectively.
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The walk thru can be helpful, especially for those unfamiliar with this social activity, which encroaches on the ordinary comfort zones because eye contact plus physical hand to hand fusion necessary.
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Many of the routines utilize various combinations of approximately a couple dozen unique moves, where each distinct extemporaneously choreographed fancy footwork utilizes a unique variation of such movements.
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The most frequent array of moves comprises the following terms, which I located at hyperlink - www.theyken.net/don/PDF/Glossary.pdf
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Glossary of Contra Dance Figures:
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Allemande Left - Two dancers join left hands about shoulder height with elbows bent down and walk a circular path.
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Allemande, Mirror - Two couples, facing, starting with one couple going between the other couple. Give the person you are starting to pass your most convenient hand, right for two dancers and left for the other two, and turn as described in the allemande right and left.
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Allemande Right - Two dancers join right hands about shoulder height with elbows bent down and walk a circular path.
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Balance – The simplest balance is a step forward and backs. Another type of balance is a step on your right foot and swing your left foot over your right foot and then step on your left foot and swing your right foot over your left foot.
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Balance and Swing - Face other dancer, take both hands, balance (as above) and swing the other dancer.
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Baskets - More that two dancers, step in so all the dancers are in a very tight circle, place your hands behind the backs of the dancers next to you and join hands. Put your right foot in closer to the center of the circle and start to turn this basket by pushing with your left foot (like in a buzz step swing).
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Box the Gnat - Partners (usually) join right hands, raise joined hands above the woman’s head, she walks under the joined hands, as the man walks around behind her. The dancers not only change positions but they end facing in the opposite direction.
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Cast Down – The dancer faces up and turns away from the center of the set and walks down the outside of the set.
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Cast Off, Assisted - Two dancers, facing the same direction, put an arm around the other dancers waist, one dancer moves forward while the other dancer moves backwards.
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Cast Off, Unassisted - One dancer, usually moving up the center or up the outside of the set, walks around an other dancer until they stand next to that dance facing the same direction.
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Cast Up – The dancer faces down and turns away from the center of the set and walks up the outside of the set.
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Circle Left – More than two dancers join hands and form a circle. Hands are joined at a height somewhere between you waist and shoulders. Dancers walk around in a circle to the left or counter- clockwise.
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Circle Right – More than two dancers join hands and form a circle. Hands are joined at a height somewhere between you waist and shoulders. Dancers walk around in a circle to the right or clockwise.
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Contra Corners - This figure is done in proper sets. The first couple turns each other by the right hand until they can turn their first corner, The person who was standing on the left side of your partner. The first couple then turns their first corners by the left hand, until they see the partners. The first couple again turn each other by the right hand and then turn their second corners, the person who was standing on the right side of your partner, by the left hand.
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Courtesy Turn – Two dancers with right hands joined and left hands joined, about waist height, facing the same direction, woman on the man’s right. The woman walks forward while the man backs-up until they are facing the opposite direction.
Cross-Over or Pass Thru – Two-dancer walk by each other passing right shoulders.
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Cross-Over is usually across the set. While Pass Thru is usually up and down the set.
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Do-Si-Do – Two dancers walk forward pass each other right shoulders, pass behind the other dancer, and backup, passing left shoulders into the place where you started.
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Do-Si-Do, Left Shoulder (also known as a See Saw) - Two dancers walk forward pass each other left shoulders, pass behind the other dancer, and backup, passing right shoulders into the place where you started.
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Do-Si-Do, Mirror - Two couples, facing, starting with one couple going between the other couple. Then dance a do-si-do, the two dancers who pass right shoulders dancing right shoulder do-si-do the other two dancers who pass left shoulders dance a left shoulder do-si-do.
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Down the Center, Turn Alone – Two dancers, usually a couple, walk down the center of the set, turn toward each other and return to the place where they started.
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Down the Center, Turn As a Couple – Two dancers, usually a couple, walk down the center of the set.
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Turn as a couple, the woman walks forward as the man backs up, until the couple is facing back in the direction they came from. Then return to a place across the set from where they started.
Figure of Eight – Two consecutive Half Figures of Eight (see below)
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Forward and Back – Dancers join hands with the dancer next to them and move forward four steps and back four steps.
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Gate and Post - Two dancers facing in the same direction, join most convenient hands, right to left, keep hands about shoulder height, one dancer will walk forward in a circular path as the other dancer walks backward in a circular path.
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Grand Chain - Three or more woman, make a right hand star, and turn the star until you meet the third (or designated) man, join left hands with the man and courtesy turn.
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Grand Right and Left - Two dancers, join right hands, pull by and give left hands to the next dancer, pull by, and continue this until you meet the person you are told to meet or until the caller tells you to stop. Can be used in squares, contras, and circles.
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Gypsy - a couple, walk once around each other, clockwise, and end where they started while looking wistfully into each others ' eyes.
Half Figure of Eight – Two dancers across from each other, in a contra, cross over while moving through the couple below (or above), the woman in the lead, they then cast up (down) to end in their partners original place.
Hey for Four – Two couples, facing, usually starting with the women moving to the center and passing right, then pass the opposite man who is moving forward by the left, the two men pass right in the center while the two women do a small loop to the left to face in, again the women pass right in the center as men do a small loop to the left to face in, women pass the men by the left, men pass right in the center and all return to original place.
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Honor - Bow to your partner.
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Improper – In a contra, when a man is in the women’s line and/or a woman is in the Mens' line. The women’s line is the line on the left when viewed from the caller’s position.
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Ladies Chain – Two couples facing, the women join right hands and pull by each other, then give their left hands to the opposite man, finishing with a courtesy turn to face the other couple.
Lead Through - Two dancers facing in the same direction, join most convenient hands, right to left, and walk between the two dancers they are facing. Often followed by a cast to original place.
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Pass Thru - Two couples facing, both couples walk forward, passing the person you are facing by the right shoulder and ending in their place (do not turn around).
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Promenade – A couple, with the man’s right arm around the woman’s waist and her right hand in his right hand, and left hands joined in front of them, move in a forward direction, sometimes ending with a courtesy turn.
Promenade, Single File - All of the dancers in a single file or circle, facing the same direction, follow the dancer in front of you.
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Proper – In a contra, the men are in the mens' line and the woman are in the women’s line. The mens line is the line on the right when viewed from the caller’s position
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Right and Left – Two couples, take right hands with the person across the set and pull by, on the opposite side of the set courtesy turn the person next to you.
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Roll Away - A couple, both facing in the same direction, woman’s left hand in the man’s right hand, the man assists the woman, who rolls across in front of him, as he moves to his right. They both end facing the same direction as they started but they are in each others' place
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Star, Left Hand – Two couples, take left hands with the person diagonally across, then they all walk forward in a circular path.
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Star, Right Hand – Two couples, take right hands with the person diagonally across, then they all walk forward in a circular path.
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Swing – A couple, in a position similar to ballroom position, except the man and woman are right hip to right hip. The simplest descriptions I have heard is assume the above position and then try to walk behind your partner. The dancers can use a simple walking step or a buzz step.
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Turn - See allemande for right and left hand turn. A two hand turn - two dancers, facing, take the other dancers right hand in your left and their left hand in your right. Pull back slightly and both dancers walk clockwise until you get back to where you started.
Andrew Ciaciuch Sep 2012
With this ring comes a promise. You must be willing to accept it before you wear it. The promise is to love me for as long as possible as I will you. To love me through all the hard times that are yet to come as I will you. To love me and nurture me back to health on the days where I am sick as I will you. To love me and comfort me when I need it as I will for you. But most of all when the day comes where all that matters to be said is “I do”  when I say those words you will not hesitate to say them back to me.

Our love is not fragile, it is not shallow. Our love is strong and none can fathom how deep.
Our love is not short, it is not passing. Our love is for a lifetime and it is here to stay.
Our love is not one sided, it is not full of doubt. Our love is open and it is built on trust.
Our love is not for you or for me. Our love is for US.


Some say that the journey into life begins when you first enter this world. I have a theory that there are multiple journeys of life in the life that you live. There is obviously the journey into becoming a adolescence and then teenager (it is coupled with school). When that ends there is the journey into adulthood (can be accompanied by but not limited to college, vehicles, taxes, jobs, stress). But I believe the two most important journeys in life are the ones about love. The first one begins when you are first born, the second one begins when you find the right person. The first one is finding the person you belong with that you love with every fiber of your being. The second journey is simply to spend the rest of your life with this person. And as I have went through both of these (the first being a bit rough to start) I ask you  to join me in starting the second journey of love. I want you to be my lifelong partner in exploring the world.


If you choose to make this promise all you have to do is put this ring on your finger, and I will be yours for life.
I wrote this to go with a promise ring that I bought my girlfriend
Alaina Moore Aug 2018
I'm starting to think it's me.
Maybe I ask to much,
though, admittedly,
maybe's it's because
I don't know what I am asking for?
I am starting to think, it's me.
Maybe I am the problem.
Or maybe that's just the voice in my head,
like a vice,
crushing any minor thing,
like an atom,
until it splits with the force of a thousand suns.
Or maybe it's everything else,
me included.
Maybe I just say it's me,
because I am my biggest bully,
and easiest target.
I thought I was asking for simple things,
but nothing seems simple anymore.
I just want these ropes untied from my hands.
Trapped in my own mind like a hostage,
who doesn't care if they make it out.
There is no greener grass on the other side,
I just wish this grass wasn't wet.
Sticking to me like feathers and tar.
I'm starting to think that I am just coasting along,
waiting for someone to help me fix my boat for me, before it sinks.
Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Jeff Gaines Mar 2018
OK Reader, I'm going to tell you a tale … with great trepidation. You see, this tale, well, it's kind of like telling someone that you've seen a UFO. They want to believe you, but … it's never really been proven scientifically. Not to mention the fact that most folks who believe in such things are often the tin-hat wearing types, written off as … lets be nice and call them “odd”. And, of course, the more you swear to it, the crazier you appear. It's an epic tale, spanning 30 years of my crazy life.

  But, It's a story I want to tell, because it happened to me. I can barely understand it myself, let alone explain it. So … I'm just going to launch into it and you take it any way you wish.

*  *  
Where Can You Be?

Where can you be?
Where can you be, my love?
Oh, can't you see?
You're not with me!

I'll search with gazes and I'll search with cars,
I'll search the cities and I'll search the stars, well …
I'm gonna find you, oh, wherever you are,
I'm gonna find you baby …  near or far, but …

Where can you be?
Where can you be, my love?
Oh, can't you see?
You're not with me!

I thought I'd found ya, but she wasn't you,
that girl she left alone and blue, well …
I know that's something that you'd never do,
your love has always been strong and true, but …

Where can you be?
Where can you be, my love?
Oh, can't you see?
You're not with me!

If you must settle for some other man
and deviate from our immortal plan, well …
I hope you realize I will understand
and I'll try and do the best that I can, but …

Where will I be?
Where will I be, my love?
Hoping the next life sees …
our destiny!


Where can you be?
Where can you be, my love?
Oh, can't you see?
You're not with me!

~Wednesday, April 1st, 1987
10:30 P.M.



  I was singing in a band back in those days and, as it happened, this was the last song I'd ever write for it. Just after this, as it does, it all came crashing down and the band was finished. But in those last days, they pondered this song, with great puzzlement. You see, it was unlike anything I'd brought them before. It wasn't rock … It wasn't a ballad … it wasn't even structured like a “normal” 80's rock song.
  
  No bridge, no solo, no loud grinding guitars, etc. It even had bits where I hummed, yes hummed, the melody, like a lullaby. As they read the lyrics and I described how it went, they all looked at me like I had three heads and asked where this had come from. It was nothing like anything I'd written before. I could only tell them when and where I'd written it, but had no explanation of what inspired it. It had just came to me, so I wrote it down. They didn't know what to make of it, or even what to do with it.

  One of them said it sounded like a late 70's or early 80's adult contemporary song or even in the vein of The Eagles. Another asked if it was about reincarnation … And I honestly, until that moment, hadn't thought of it that way, I didn't think like that at 24 … but then, one of them said it was “Haunting” …

  “Haunting”?

  “Wow”, I thought, I'd never had anything I'd written described as that before. When I asked him what he meant by that, he told me that it was haunting to think that this poor guy is desperately seeking a girl, that may or may not even know that he exists … in a world with billions of people in it. To top that off, he fears that she may off and marry someone else if he doesn't find her in time.

  This, along with the suggestion of it being about reincarnation made me rethink and rewrite the song. Well, a few lines in the last verse and chorus anyways. It actually made the song flow better and seem more complete. In a way, it actually made the song make more sense … to me and them. Sadly, we never did anything with it. There wouldn't be time. Ha … Time … how ironic. Over 10 years later, came this …


For Someone I've Never Met

Please save a place for me,
deep inside your heart.
Always know that I think of you,
as we both practice our arts.

Our worlds are full of temptations,
so very hard to resist …
and the good Lord knows
we're both far from,
sixteen and never been kissed.

Wealthy men with jaws divine …
Temptresses with looks so fine …
Paths that lead our hearts away …
Paths that surely lead astray …

They'll lead us there every time.
They'll leave us there … so  unkind.
Our hearts must shine,
night and day.
Through any darkness … they'll light our way.

If you never touch my face …
If I never look into your eyes …
We'll always have the comfort of sharing
the same
big, blue sky.

If I never smell your hair …
If you never kiss my lips …
Always know the search for your smile
has launched a thousand ships.

So, I hope you save a place for me
in your heart so sweet and kind.
Please, save a place for me …
Heaven knows you've one in mine.

~Thursday, September 9th, 1999
9 A.M.



“For Someone I've Never Met ” poured out of me in the midst of another breakup from the second, and last, girl that I wanted to marry. That emotion, never found me again. I looked at it on my computer screen and smiled, seeing “Where Can You Be”, in my mind, on my tattered old note pad that I called my “Song Book”. The memory of me writing it while sitting in my Z-28, looking out over the Gulf of Mexico as a beautiful heat lighting storm sent bolts across the sky, came flooding back; as did the debate of reincarnation I'd had with my pals in the rehearsal room all those years before. Here I was, again, writing about “someone” that I sensed, for lack of a better term, was out there … somewhere.

  Well Reader, do you believe in reincarnation? I was never really certain, but, as you can see, I had twice written pieces to someone I wasn't completely sure existed. I had always “sensed” someone out there beginning with the period after I wrote “Where Can You Be?” and thereafter. So, there they were, each written after losing someone I was deeply in love with. Each came out of nowhere, as they usually do. By the time I was in my 40's, I began to think I was either imagining it all (a side effect of being a hopeless romantic) or that I had just somehow missed this person and our “moment”.

  And then …



Epiphany

There was a place.
There was a time …
There, I stood … still unknowing
and everything seemed fine.

But there in that place …
at that moment in time …
the moment I saw the eyes,
I'd never believed I'd find.

Well, what could I say?
What could I do?
In a world filled with billions …
and there … was a you.

I'd always known you were out there …
even written of something amiss.
I never, ever stopped looking for you …
because my heart always said you exist.

My breezy Fall became harshest Winter.
My crazy life left my health running out.
I'd resigned myself that our moment had passed …
but this moment … it removed all doubt.

Well, what could I say?
Tell me, what could I do?
There we stood, staring … alone … in a city of millions …
yes, there … there was a you.

Oh, that mistress fate, she is just so cruel.
Frustration, a curse to be mine.
   I'd searched for you my entire life …
but now … my clock … knows a limit of time.

You see, I would never venture a love with you,
while knowing I'd have to leave you … hurt and alone.
I could only admire from afar … stoic and aloof …
while turning my heart into stone.

Nothing I could ever say and nothing I could ever do …
But now, at long last … at least I finally knew.

There, you stood … green seas, gazing up … into skies of blue.
My long-awaited revelation … become sorrow-laced realization.
There really is … a you.

~August 12th, 2009
  

  Typical of my life-long Charlie Brown syndrome … After being told in 2005 that I had “the lungs of an eighty-year-old man” and that I had “Six to Ten years” to live, I made a conscious decision in that Doctor's parking lot that I could never have another girlfriend and that I must face this alone. I don't see woman as objects. They are glorious creatures that are here to be our partners and friends and to make our lives amazing. I could never, ever knowingly let a woman fall in love with me, all the while knowing I was going to die and leave her. It's not in me to do such a thing, lonely or not.

  Yes, I'm still alive, I'm stubborn like that. But, some days are better than others and my new doctors say that they don't give people “time limits” anymore … because of people like me. I can't afford the lung transplant. So, as Bono so aptly put in one of his songs: “The rich stay healthy, while the sick stay poor”. It is what it is … and like the energizer bunny, I'm still going. Good for me.

  In the moment that I met her, the morning that followed, and the amazing speed of our nexus over the next several months combined with a string of synchronicities (Coincidences? Did I mention that she too, was a poet and writer?) that not only came after I met her on the sidewalk in front of the publisher we shared, but in those pieces I had written before and in several after; I was pretty much convinced I had actually found her. I have NEVER experienced anything like this, or her, in my entire life.

  So, after all this time, here she was … and there wasn't a **** thing that I could do about it. Besides, she was much younger than I and it probably would never have worked anyways. ****, the universe is rotten sometimes, huh? Maybe, if I'm lucky, things will balance out better in the next life. I can only hope. But I'm reminded, worryingly so, of the **** The Alarm song: “Collide”:

“All of these thoughts pounding in my head …
with the words I've wrote, in the letters I've never sent.
The distance in our lives may change …
Times that you can never erase …
But will our worlds collide?
Will our worlds collide, the next time?”



  Only time will tell.



  “Colors”, and a few others, were written about/for her. But, I could never show them to her. I would never endanger my friendship with her. I just wanted to keep her in my life. That, and that alone, was the only motive I'd ever had with her. I looked forward to seeing her marry, hearing her stories of her three kid's adventures; Hubby, all greasy, working on the car in the driveway, rabbits in her garden at night, eating her precious organic veggies or even about her new curtains. Just to know that she was alive, happy and doing well. I found a solace in her voice I could never describe and I was completely content to just have her in my life and watch hers unfold. Only I could end up in this odd position.

  I feared that she might get weird-ed out because I'd never displayed any romantic inklings toward her, so, to suddenly read these might make her feel a bit, lets say: uncomfortable. Actually, I didn't write them with any romantic intentions, per se; I just did what I always do … write what comes out. Still, there's no denying that they come across romantic. Again, so, so Charlie Brown. (long sigh)
  
  It is what it is. I also have to ponder the fact that maybe all those Charlie Brown moments in my life were preparing me for this one big, painful one. That does makes sense … ******' Universe.


Colors

Well when you're Green, I'll be your Brown.
Like the earth that loves the flowers,
I'll will be your solid ground.

And I'll be your Azure, when you are Verdigris.
We'll be thee most beautiful ocean
that eyes have ever seen.

And when you're Black, I'll be your White.
Mixing all of the colors … I'll make everything alright.

Now when you're Blue, I'll be you're Red.
If something should make you wanna cry,
I will feel your pain instead.

And I'll be your Orange, whenever you are Pink.
We'll be thee most amazing sunset,
that the sky could ever ink.

And when you're Black, I'll be your White.
I'll mix all of your colors … and make everything alright.

Should you be Violet, I will be your Beige.
Like a sleepy moonlit desert,
pasteled in dunes and sage.

And when you're Grey, I will be your Rainbow.
We'll be thee most soothing rainstorm
the world has ever known.

And when you're Black, I'll be your White.
I'll mix all of your colors … yes, I'll make everything alright.

With love on my palette, painting a glorious sunrise …
I'll color all your mornings with a smile and brighten up your skies.
If you should find yourself in sorrow from someones hate or lies …
I'll take the stars down from the heavens … and paint them in your eyes.

So whenever you are Black, I will always be your White.
I'll mix all your colors with a promise … everything will be alright.

Yes, I'll mix all of your colors with a promise … Everything's gonna be alright.

~  Winter 2012



  I wrote this after she had rang me up one afternoon lamenting about her life at the moment, troubled that her latest novel hadn't done as well as she'd hoped and now she had to be waitressing to make ends meet. I tried my best to cheer her up and assured her that she was strong enough to handle anything and that she must keep chasing her dreams. I wrote it as a poem, but I can't help but notice it looks like a song, though I've never heard music for it. Those repeated verses look just like choruses to me.

  Earlier in the day, I had been looking at a booklet of paint swatches. I guess, up there on my roof looking at the Manhattan skyline, her sadness and me looking at all those colors melted together somehow and, as happens, out came this piece. Even this, became another synchronicity as she would name her next novel “Show Me All Your Colors”. I remember seeing it in the bookstore and looking straight up … shaking my head at the sky. Was this the universe telling me to show and tell her all this?

  Well, if it was, I stuck with my gut and kept it to myself. My God, if you only knew how many of these synchronicities there were between her and I. It simply boggles my mind. I wanted to call them “coincidences”, but there were just so **** many of them … Each so unique, they just couldn't be called that. I don't want to tell them all here, because like I said, the more you swear to it, the crazier you sound. And I'm sure your questioning my sanity by now, aren't you? (Smirk)


  OK, OK … this one is definitely romantic. I wrote it one night, drunk to the bejeezus. I'd done what we called “The Crosstown Crawl” with my pal Tristan and a gaggle of assorted waitresses we knew. This involved starting at Brass Monkey on the west side highway in the Gansevoort District and ending at my favorite hookah bar, Karma, on the Lower East Side … Drinking in, and often being “asked to leave” (Read: Kicked out of) every bar that took our interest as we walked (Read: staggered) west to east, staying below 14th St.

  On my way home from the city on the J train, I thought about all the phone conversations we'd had while I was on this train crossing the Williamsburg Bridge. Being drunk, I guess, I caught a bout of sadness that I'd never get to tell her any of this or even how I felt about it all. Before I hit my elevator, this piece was swimming in my head. It's about as mushy a piece as I've ever written … if not thee most! Not the norm for me, but this is, after all, a lot to keep pent up inside you. I wouldn't wish this predicament on anyone.


For My Little Red-Haired Girl …


You …

My Love.
My Queen.
This Shining Light in my eyes.

My Laughs.
My Dreams.
My Soft, Contented Sighs.

My *****.
My Lavender.
My Dew Covered Rose.

My Smile.
My Cinnamon.
The Joy in my heart … ever inspiring my prose.

My Best Friend.
My Co-Star.
My Fearless Partner in Crime.

My Breath.
My Cohort.
My Side-kick throughout time.

My Snow-capped Mountain.
The Wind caressing my face.
My Vast Green Field.

The Ivy Covered Wall
that harbors my soul … ever refusing to yield.

In a different time ...

You … would have been my Life.

You … would have been my World.

You … would have been my Everything

and I will always love you for my own special reasons.

It is just a shame … and I'm so, so sorry … that you … must never, ever know.

Maybe next time.


~Charlie Brown




   When I came-to in the morning and read what I had wrote, I had to laugh a bit. It is borderline corny, very beautiful, very telling and very sad … all at once. I shook my head, laughing and told myself :

  “*******, Sam … yer losin' it. Get your **** together, will ya?”

  I guess in my stupor, I was imagining what it would have been like to write something for her. I don't know … There it was and I was stuck with it. I almost deleted it, but, my finger wouldn't press the key. As I told you before … I'd NEVER show this to her. She'd probably never speak to me again.

   As a sadder epilogue, that eventually happened. I still don't know why, but we haven't spoken in years. Maybe she sensed this emotion in me and ran away. Or maybe, just maybe … she thought I'd pushed her away somehow … but for whatever reason, we drifted apart. I guess I'll never know.  As you can see by reading this, that was never my intention. But, like I keep reiterating … It is what it is.

  One day, I called her number to catch up and shoot the breeze. I hadn't spoken to her in a few months as she'd been busy promoting her new novel and I didn't want to pester her. But … it was disconnected … I checked my emails … nothing. I'd never been so confused, she just closed me out. I didn't want to bother her. I was sure she had her reasons and if she wanted to reach out to me again, she would. She had my email and my phone number. But, for now … she was gone … and that was that.

  So, what do you think, Reader? Do I get the Tin hat … or a Badge of courage? Am I bat-**** crazy … or just eccentric? I'll leave it up to you to decide, because as I said, this all happened to me and there isn't a thing I can do about any of it. I just had to get it off of my chest. Thanks for letting me vent.

  Wherever she is … she will always mean the world to me. I can see her green eyes if I close my mine and look for them. Sometimes, on occasion, her face haunts my sleep. Still, I like to picture her, kids playing in a sprinkler behind her, digging in her garden, wearing gloves too big for her hands and a smudge of fresh dirt on her cheek … it makes me smile.


-Sam Webster
Brooklyn, New York
2013
OK, you can stop scratching your head. I'm sorry if you feel like I tricked you or was playing a prank … That was not my intention. This piece is experimental writing, of sorts. If you are wondering, it's titled “Somewhere … Out There”. But I didn't want to put a title at the head of the page, as that might have clued you in too early.

I also confess that “Sam” the narrator is, on no uncertain terms, based loosely on myself. But hey, what better way to string you along? Besides, as Stephen King said, you “Write what you know”. As far as I 'm aware, using poetry within a short story like this, or in this manner, has never been done before. Welcome to the future!

It really belongs in my “From Thee Edge” Collection with the rest of my Twilight-Zone-esque short stories. (You can now read some of these fiction short stories here, posted in my "NoPo@HePo" posts, along with some non-fiction essays. I hope you enjoy them.) But, because I pieced together several of my poems to not only tell the story, but as a vehicle to carry it along as part of it; I wanted to put it here on Hello Poetry just to see if I could convince you long enough to get you through the story … while having you believe it was me speaking to you and that it was all very real to me. Thus, making it feel real to you as you read it.

Was I having you along right up until it was signed by someone else? Or, at least until the narrator addressed himself as “Sam”?

If so, then I accomplished my mission. I'd love to hear your comments on it. If you've been reading any of my other posts, I'm sure you've figured out that I like to run wildly outside of the box sometimes. This was just, as I said, an experiment in a different way to tell a story … fiction or otherwise. As always, I hope that I took you on a journey and, more importantly, that you enjoyed it.

~Jeff Gaines
L.A.
(Lower Alabama)
2015
Demons are lurking in the shadows of reality
and in trying to find my sanity
everything's confusing in my fragile state of mind
the shadows lurking are so hard to find
i'm trying to stay strong
but everything i'm doing seems so wrong
darkness is starting to eat at my mind but there's nowhere to hide
i'm starting to fall
i'm afraid i'll lose it all.
Starting over can be so hard
It makes you stop and think
How many chances do I have
How many will I need

Is there someone out there
Who will truly understand
Become my true companion
And someday take my hand

Will someone get to know me
And like just what they see
Then change my life forever
With the love they give to me

Starting over can be so hard
It makes you stop and think
How many chances do I have
How many will I need

Carl Joseph Roberts
Hello, everyone! This is one of the weirdest sites: or your money back! We have ZIM, neopets, music, and much, much, more. E-mail us for questions, comments, complaints and information. Why not click on the Very Weird Stuff link to see more, or click on the music link? We have halloween and christmas pictures on the NeoPics link. Cheese is not a wild thing!!!!!!!!! Now I have decided to go for a world record. I will try to make the longest web page ever, made completely out of text! Won't that be fun? I will just type, and type, and never, ever use copy and paste. Wow...I really must be bored. Just goes to show what boredom can do to you. Any way, that's it for now. Wait, no it isn't, I still have to keep going, and going, and going. Because I do. THE REST OF THE STUFF I TYPE WILL BE COMPLETLY IN CAPS JUST BECAUSE I CAN. THAT IS ALL. SEEYA! Hi, I'm back. So far this is nowhere near the world record. I think. I don't exactly know where it is...oh, well. I'll just have to do the very best that I can. No one is really coming here, anyway. So it doesn't matter. By the way, TAB is a worthwhile, community-service organization. The form link is to a 100% fake TAB registration form that you can fill out just for laughs. I can't believe I'm bothering to do this. I have very low expectations of my site. None ever comes here, I could do this all day long and I still wouldn't have any more hits. This is just a pointless excursive in spelling errors and grammatical imprecision. May your day be shiney! The following is an extremely weird poem-thingy that I wrote when I was in a relatively weird mood:
never mind that noise my dear can anyone pass the cheese only if you say pretty please oh, boy do I have to sneeze. why must everyone always rhyme, why I’m a poet and don’t I know it? what I fear comes right after here not this life or the next will I ever be able to pass the test? we’re stuck in here, (alone my dear) and we’ll problem never get out so don’t start to shout. it’s dark and I want to go home is where the heart was where is it now? we’ll never know but oh crap it’s starting to snow and it’s time to show and tell about the well that you found last summer at camp when it was damp it was near the ramp oh god why must this be I liked that tree but now it’s gone, farewell so long I’ll miss you as long as you write but then I’m afraid to say good-night. my dear there’s nothing to fear that’s only a box that’s made of blocks next to the wagon that looks like a dragon why are you shaking it’s your fear that is making you shiver and act all a quiver. don’t you know that you only need be afraid of fear and never anything here and certainly not a post that acts like a ghost?
See, very weird. At least it fills up my word quota for the day. Not that I exactly have a word quota for the day. It just sounded very professional to say it. Anyway, I still don't think that anyone is actually coming here. You'd have to be an absolute loser (or really bored) to come here. I'd probley come here, but that isn't much of a surprise. After all, I've been to the Really Really Big Button That Doesn't Do Anything website over 50 times. Pathetic. But, whatever. As long as I'm happy, right. Humor the crazy person, okay? Oh, guess what? According to someone you problem don't know, this is the second most pointless website ever! Next to the Really Big Button, of course. I feel special. Come on everyone, group hug. Okay, now I'm starting to scare myself...I'm gonna quit for today. Seeya. Now I'm back. Is this getting confusing to you? Too bad. Now I want you to go to http://quiz.ravenblack.net/blood.pl?biter=eon" If you do this I'll get points in the game. Come on all you non-existing people! Help me! You know you want to! It's a worthy cause! Honestly, the more time I waste playing the game, the less time I'll work on this site and the less stuff you gotta read. Although why you'd be here if you didn't want to read is beyond me. Maybe you're lost. Okay, if you want to get out, click the little refresh button, okay? Good...what? You say it didn't let you out? Oh, well. You must be caught in a time warp. Keep pressing it. Maybe you'll break free. What's that. The little counter at the bottom keeps going up? Never mind. That's just how many times you have to click before you can leave. Good-bye.

Hey, I'm once again: back. I don't suppose you fell for that little thing about the refresh button. After all, you're a responsible, intelligent person who apparently has a lot of time on your hands. Well, you can't possibly have more time than I do. I mean, after all, I made this site. You're only browsing it. And most people don't even come here. Not even my friends...sniffle The just ignore this poor, pathetic little page. All they do is fill out the TAB form and leave. I think. Maybe they're here right now! HI! HOW ARE YOU DOING? I'M FINE! THANKS FOR COMING! YES, I'M YELLING! Who am I kidding. This page won't get a single hit, unless I bribe people...now that has possibilities. Okay, fill out the TAB form, so I have proof that you bothered to come here and...uh...I'll...uh...send you a sandwich? Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery. I'm bored. I'm gonna go hug a moose. MOOSE! I love-d you moose! Hey, I'm back again! Yea...waits for applause okay! Now I want all you loyal fans...cricket chirps to go to the link to see what I'm like. I took a whole bunch of personality quizzes and posted them there. I'm an evil villain, kitty and a freakazoid so far. And I only took the quiz once, too. Spooky how accurate they are...anyway, I command you to go! I'm going. I'm back. I'm gonna start counting how many times I say back. Let's see: 1...2...3...4...5! Wow. I must really be desperate for something to do. I now officially have proof that someone has been here! It was one of my friends. Apparently this page really is getting long, because my friend said something to that effect. Maybe. Anyway, moving on! I'm just basically typing nothing. Just like all those reports people have to do. You know? With a specific number of words. They start out with half that number, and then just fill in words until they have the right amount. I salute those people. You're great tradition is being carried out here, on the second most pointless site ever! Well. Maybe eventually some weird, bored person will wander onto my site on accident and be mildly entertained be my site until they wander onto a live video feed of a coffee maker. Or maybe not. I only know that I'm entertaining me, which was my original goal. So. I've done what I've set out to accomplish. Yea, me! I'm so special. You see, most people, they don't like reading or writing. So if you're not most people, you've made it down this far without skipping, skimming or getting the spark notes version. (Which I think does not exist) My point is, if you've bothered to read this, then, (like me) you probley have also read the ketchup bottle so many times that you have it down verbatim. Look verbatim up. It's a word. But, you should know that, since you like reading. Or maybe you're just skimming. Anyway, there's nothing wrong with reading food labels. You might be asked a question about them on a quiz show. And now, for the million-dollar question: How many calories are there in a single serving of Mustard? I can just see it now...It could be called Know-Your-Food. Or You are What you Eat. It'd probley be as popular as those game shows that no one's ever heard of. Speaking of food, what's up with pie? There's strawberry pie, apple, pumpkin and so many others, but there is no grape pie! I know. I'm just as upset about this unfortunate lack of development in the pie division. Think about it. Grapes are used to make jelly, jam, juice and raisins. What makes them undesirable for pie? Would they dry into raisins? Couldn't you just stick some jelly in a piecrust and bake it? It just doesn't make any sense. Another thing that bothers me is ***** grinders. You know, the foreign guys with the bellhop hats and the little music thingy and the cute little monkey with the bellhop hat who collects the money? Okay. They're basically begging on the street. How did they ever afford an *****-thingy? Wouldn't it make more sense to get a kazoo, if you're broke? And if they're so poor, what possessed them to buy a monkey? I mean, I don't think I could afford a monkey, and I'm not exactly on the streets. Obviously I at least have a computer...so, back to the ***** grinders. I would have sold the monkey and the ***** and been able to eat for at least a year. Or, if I was weirder than I am, I could at least **** the monkey with the ***** and eat it. Why on earth did they keep the monkey? It must have cost a fortune to feed...not to mention the mess. That's just one of those many facts of life that are better left mysteries. Especially since no one but me would ask the question. I better go. I think I hear a monkey...Okay...now I'm back. That's the sixth time I've said back! I realize that this longest text ever must be very boring and not worth anyone's time. But I'd like to take this time to thank the 2 and 1/2 people in the entire universe who have bothered to read this entire thing. I'm not exactly sure who they are, but: thanks! Right now, my spacebar is malfunctioning...that's not good...I have to press it two or three times just to insert a freaking space. Maybe the evil little faeries with the sharp little teeth have put their evil faerie dust on my computer. Or maybe not. This is too frustrating. Goodbye for now...Now I'm back. And still frustrated. But for a different reason. Today I had the misfortune of playing a Treasure Planet game on neopets.com It was terrible. Apparently the point of the game was to get your character to shout "Whoo-Hoo!" as many times as possible before you splattered your brains on the rocks, all the while listening to a soundtrack that is similar to a dying ceiling fan. Of course, when I started out I accidentally hit the rocks approximately three million times. Halfway though I used my four remaining brain-cells to decide that the game was dumb. So my goal changed from surviving to laughing evilly while my character died. So the game naturally did everything it could to preserve my life. The stupid game is still going on and I refuse to quit because I want my points. My character is actually dodging the stupid rocks better now then when I controlled him. I hate irony. Seeya. Okay. Now I'm back again. Today I added an update page, which is basically a less chaotic, outlined version of this without all the ranting. It's more like techno talk about arrays and how much I **** and whether or not the Braves will win this year. Okay, the whole braves thing is made up. But everything else I've said so far is true. I think. Maybe I should start on a boring disclaimer...Eh-hem. All contents of this site were designed for entertainment purposes only. Any use thereof that is not stated in the above mentioned statement would make the author, hereby referred to as Patron Saint of Paper Clips, very angry. Should you violate the purpose of this site: i.e. become not entertained, the Patron Saint of Paper Clips will be forced to take drastic measures. This is specified in Code: 343 of the Flaming Chicken Handbook. Ooooo…that’s a great idea! I’m gonna start quoting from the Flaming Chicken Handbook! Code: 343 of the Flaming Chicken Handbook states that the Patron Saint of Paper Clips (that’s me) is allowed to cause vague, pain like sensations while the offending person (or alien life form, dog, etc.) isn’t paying attention. Now I have a purpose in life! To make up quotes from the non-existent Flaming Chicken Handbook, which I’m sure you have a copy of. No? Too bad. It’s in the mail, I promise! Now I must take my leave…and remember. Cheese is watching. Okay...I'm back...I think that eventually half of this thing will consist of the word back over and over again...that's just weird. Which fits the motif of the rest of the site. There's even a money back guarantee. Isn’t' that nice? See? Now no one can ever say that I don't take care of my viewers. Especially since I don't have viewers. I have readers. Wait...I really don't even know if anyone bothers to read this. Even if I put it in a less chaotic, more user-friendly format people would still ignore this because it involves: reading. Yes. Sad to admit, but the majority of people would rather read the summary at the back of a book rather than the whole book itself. What has the world come to? It's pathetic. Especially since I'm bothering to write all this. It's not fair! Why can't I have more readers?! All the other internet writers have nothing on me, except they're better at advertising, having a central theme/plot and basically more talented. Whereas I'm more into the whole ranting and raving stage right now. Plus, I am horrible at spelling. Which is bad. Thank the powers that be for spell-check. The single greatest invention of the computer gods. I'm getting bored, so I think I'm done for the day. May your day be shiney! I'm back again! And I feel weird! I found at that yet another one of my friends is reading this. Creepy. Just how much time do they have on their hands. Perhaps their just trying to be nice. I can just see it now...an organization devoted not to feeding the hungry, or peace, or love or whatever, but to giving recognition to all those poor, pathetic, unpopular websites. I wonder what it's name would be. Don't Ignore Sites? Would it be called DIS? Isn't that like a slang term for an insult? Would that be considered poetic justice, or just a nice coincidence? And why do I even care? I'll tell you why. Because I have nothing else to do right now. I could be playing neopets, but ever since my bad experience with Treasure Planet, I don't feel like it. Oh, by the way, I noticed that whenever I use spell-check, my stupid computer turns the word probley into to word problem. To prevent this, I did nothing. So, it is now up to you, the imaginary reader, to decide whether I mean probley or problem...it's almost like a game! But without the bad sound track. And I promise not to force you to live when you would rather die. Moving on, I have nothing else to say, but don't feel like quitting just yet. I'm like the little engine that could. Or maybe the Energizer Bunny. I just keep going, and going and going. Or I could be like that annoying guy on T.V. who keeps asking if you can hear him. If my site manages to last a decade, my readers snicker will probley wonder what I'm talking about. My answer is simple. It doesn't matter. I'm just rambling. Which means that it doesn't matter if you understand anything I say. Doesn't that make you feel better? I bet it does. Wow. Look how long this has gotten. I even impress myself. Who would have thought I have this much free time? And I congratulate any reader who has gotten this far. Ooooooo! You must check out the fortunes section of the random stuff page! I've just gotten an idea for some more, original, fortunes...I gotta go!(may the moose be with you) And now I am back. I swear. If iI fill out the fake tab form I'm gonna have to put back as my favorite word...I already have filled it out, though. Would it be cheating to fill it out again? Only if I had multiple personalities. Or would it be cheating if I didn't have multiple personalities? The world may never know. Just like how many licks it takes to get to the bottom of a tootsie pop. Would it vary? The number of licks, I mean. Someone could have super-disolving spit, or watery-spit. Or what if you took big ol' slobbery licks? Does the commercial take that into account? No. It doesn't. And let me tell you, it's an outrage. It deludes all of American's sweet, innocent, candy-loving children into thinking that a cartoon owl is smarter than they are! "Mr. Owl, can you tell us how many licks does it take to get to the bottom of a tootsie pop?" Or whatever. And "Mr. Owl" replies "One...Twoo...Three! Chomp" And he bites it. That teaches our youth that it's okay to agree to help someone, and then ruin their experiment. Well...it's not. I am going to start a protest group. Teens Against Cartoon Owls. We could call ourselves TACO! I love the little tacos, I love them good! That is a direct quote from GIR, co-star and comic-relief on INVADER ZIM
Madisen Kuhn Jan 2015
it’s so frustrating because i know you wanted to be with me, on those days you drove almost an hour each way to see me and you kissed me so often and held me so tight and always pulled me closer and i could feel your eyes on me when i wasn’t looking, and we spent day after day like this, just being together and pretending that time could stand still, but at the same time, i feel like it was all just something for you to do while you were home, even though you deny it. i remember starting to tear up one afternoon with my head on your chest while you slept, because i knew it was just a matter of time till this was just a memory. i can’t picture you actually missing me, i can’t imagine you actually wishing i hadn’t said i was done with grey and in between. i feel like i’m so insignificant to you. like you have no feelings, like you couldn’t care less, this is just life, people come and go. and i know that, i know this is just life, and that people come and go, but it hurts that it’d never cross your mind to ask me to stay, that i was fun while i lasted, that you never wanted to make me yours. i’ll fade soon. i want to matter more to you. you’re a thinker, i’m a feeler, you hate that i’m so black and white. but i’m selfish and i want 3am texts that you can’t stop thinking about me and that you need to see me again soon. but that’s not who you are. and it’s unfair of me to want you to feel that way when you don’t. and it’s really okay, because if i extended my hand to you and you took it, i don’t think we would’ve gotten very far anyway. i loved being so close to you, but i’m excited to hold someone’s hand who doesn’t want to let go, to kiss someone who wants to kiss me forever, to not be anticipating an inevitable end, to be able to trust someone fully with my heart, to have someone that wants to hold it. and i don’t need that, i don’t need someone, i don’t need anyone. but if one day it’s what’s meant to be, i’ll let it be. i don’t want to be careless with my heart again. i don’t know why things happen the way they do, and i don’t regret you for a second, and i still think the world of you, but i’m too emotional and i fall too deep to give that much of myself again to someone who never asked for any of it in the first place.
DJ Thomas May 2010
We each have a voice and life, it is how we use them not how we might!  

Stop glaciers melting
Huge population movements
Death of progeny


The small reductions in carbon emissions being targeted for 2020 or 2050 - are thought to little to late to slow global warming.  The melting polar ice and glaciers together with our changing weather patterns are now fact. The resulting loss of river systems and rising sea levels will mean the desertification or flooding of agricultural lands and famine, then the migration of populations - starting with the skilled and rich seeking safety, to escalate into the terror of armed bands
warring over water, food, women and land.

By 20 20
Lets hope for twenty twenty
A 20 20


There is now the thought that the huge physical change wrought by global warming can be charted by the escalation in earthquake and volcanic activity.  And that this may eventually trigger huge eruptions in the American and Asian continents,
destroying civilisations to create a planetary volcanic winter.

Again fire and cold
The cycle repeats itself
Destroying nature


Was there a civilisation in deep history before the flood, prior to and during the last ice-age?
This has been researched and written about in great detail during the last twenty years
and many now believe it already proven by scientific review of documents and
thousands of archaeological finds, also by scientists having used the exactness
in the astronomical alignments of ancient monuments
to recalculate there greater age.  

Dead sold souls herd us
Lost mindless finger puppets
Vapid witless words


Sadly, the majority put their reliance and faith in
the actions of lawyer-ed politicians, most of whom evidence
a fixation on their own welfare,  selfish self-glorification needs
and an unwillingness to rock-the-boat once in power*

Politicians thwart
Party politics deafen
Propaganda’s herd


Putting off all radical action required until after the next election.  
Many have gifted away the necessary legal control and power to take national radical action
to a political or trade grouping of nations - in effect retaining only national rights
to go to war, put up taxes, borrow and spend monies.

Please no rhetoric
Complete local transition
Forget politics


We each have a voice and life, it is how we use them not how we might!

Living we give voice
So one voice might yet be heard
All being, believe!


We are left holding our eco-inheritance and children’s future in the palm of our hand.
Please let our love and imagination drive us each forward to make change.


Biosphere a greenhouse 
Target the impossible
Please gift some life soon?


So, we each of us have hard personal choices to make, which will encompass both positive and negative
benefits in terms of our time, lifestyle, health and wealth.  I chose to base my choices solely on how it
might benefit the eco-system and the lives of our children.

My choices are grouped under five headings: transport, food, home, lifestyle and further action. They are:
-  

Transport: Rail; Bus; Coach; Bike;
(I pass woods in bud - a Red Kite hunting twisting, unhurried moments).  
To give up ownership of electric / motor vehicles
and to avoid air travel where possible.


Highly vaporous.
Emissions farting -
barrelling vipers
.

Food: To eat meat/fish only once a week at most;
(Slaughteramas greed - industrial carcase-ed meals. Sheep full of cancer)
To study fast methods of vegetarian cooking; buy local organic foodstuffs;
visit local farmers markets and farm shops; grow my own when possible
and help friends establish vegetable/herb gardens.
To not ever feed, cleave and eat!


Fat shopaholics,
a deadly consumerism.
Cancers meat to eat


Home:   A cottage sized for me, friends and neighbours,
overlooking a wooded valley and trout stream.
Like me a little untidy and basic
.

Crossing the shallows
trout fingerling feed at dawn
White dots steep hill path

Dusk - eight painted queue
river paired mare and foal
Foliage lined dark black


Well positioned to capture the morning sun, airy and light.  
Yet insulated to stay cool or warm. With easy access to mountain bike trails
and long distance bus routes, plus several end-of-line train stations
in energetic cycling distance over the mountains


A differing beat
Quickly fading doubled steps -
pulling separate


Life Style:* A thinking poet mountain biker, living organic
not part of the great noisious noxious ribbons of hurtling tired.

Pressured paced life -
impossible  commitments.
Organic living


Further Action: *I intend to give up meat not because of the terrible cruelty involved in ten billion or more animals
being slaughtered every year to feed the human race, but due to
: 1)  animal farming being a major factor in the burning of 50 million year old rainforests at a rate of one and half acres per second to generate huge volumes of greenhouse gases, destroying the richest habitats on Earth and a principal source of oxygen; and 2)  that these billions of farmed animals
are themselves a major source of greenhouse gases
.

Burning rainforests
Feeding to cleave open and eat
Subsistence farming


With ongoing intensive fishing, the world's fisheries already in crisis and climate change,
it could be that we will run out of wild-caught seafood much earlier than 2030!


Conserve energy -
and natural resources
Don’t waste foolishly


Each of us might have a different view of what globalisation is,
for some this word encapsulates the dangers of our global fast food culture, omnipresent brands,
popular culture, changing diets and the growing use of packaged processed foods
.

Freedom to act sought
Globalisation's curses
Octopus suckers!


For many it is the illegal international trade in endangered species of flora and fauna,  
second only in value to the $350 billion a year global drug trafficking trade that now services
perhaps more than 50 million regular users of ******, ******* and synthetic drugs
.

The label 'globalization' can cover the: spread and integration of different cultures;  
industry moving to low per capita income countries; sweatshops supplying this seasons branded goods
to retail outlets worldwide;  complex international interleaved financial trading instruments being developed
by banks and financial institutions to trade worldwide, create profits and pay huge bonuses, without risk to themselves
.

Globalisation -
orchestrated profiteers,
betting our losses


Many see globalisation as being the beneficial spread of free trade, liberty, democracy and capitalism,
involving the efficient allocation of resources and capital through the spread of technology.
Unelected international bodies and institutions such the World Bank actively promulgate globalisation,
a '‘world government’ promoting close economic ties between nations
.

Enculturation
Our sad indoctrination
Globalization
  

The anti-globalisation movements dislike the corporate and political nature of globalisation,
protesting the resultant harm done to the biosphere, a more rapid and extensive deterioration of the environment
and the unintended but very real consequences of globalisation: the erosion of traditional culture
resulting in social disintegration; a breakdown of democracy; the spread of new diseases;
changes in diet; increasing poverty.
.

I view globalisation and it's propagation as leading to the final destruction
of the world's cultures and civilisations by locked us into a
dogmatic world political doctrine secured through
trade and political alliances of states, institutions
and corporations that remain hell bent on
imposing this world governance. Such
that individual countries governments
cannot consider making substantive
radical change to avert the planet
being pushed into a natural cycle
that will end the human race
.

Caged in Fools World
The people hear heroic call  
Each one a hero
!

The peoples and cultures of the world need perhaps just one western country to
break the legal chains of globalisation and adopt a radical economic regeneration program
designed to make the total transition to a dynamic culture of localised
clean communities centred on the individual not competition*  

Only one tool
National taxation for -
economic change.


Here I begin discussing how global, regional and national economies might
be based on the growth of small organic local economies.
not the repeated foolishness involved in chasing lower cost base manufacture -
each time at great cost to the economy it has migrated from!
Then a further culture becoming totally reliant
on the transport of foodstuffs and goods -
I can here you saying
:

"Oh **** this guy is -
talking about change, changing -
the world we live in!"


Yes, I am and do we have a choice?  But such change will be organic and involve business
in the restructuring and regeneration of economies till we share green economies.  
In small part his is already happening slowly!


Unlock taxation,  
survivals powerful tool.  
Needed now for change!


This is why we need to consider doing something that many of today's
plutocrats, economists, bureaucrats and politicians, would dismiss out of hand or
discuss endlessly in terms of perfectly competitive markets, perverse economic incentives etc


Major solution
National taxation change
Human extinction



WORK in HAND

This haiku sequenced eco-haibun is an ongoing project being penned day-by-day by many that care and take action. Your reactions are all welcome, thank you


**Take back control now.  
Cease all squabbling, achieve act - decisively!

Globalisation's, global control cut away.
Diversity sought

Promote well being.  Act with imagination -
for ecology!

Creating employment -
with local utilities, local food and transport

Incentivise tax,  to create local benefits.
Gain prosperity

Income taxation -  value added tax, aged -
dangerous mistake

Local licensing.  Lead don't follow excuses.
Saviour taxation

Imaginative - energy, food and transport -
local licensing

An alternative - energetic strategy,
greening business

Organic foodstuffs - out compete processed food.
Life promoting health

Healthy government - a healthy population. 
Zero income tax!

Locally taxed - by distance it travelled -
and category

Products bar coded.  Point of agreed production -
and category

Local added tax, by distance it travelled -
and category

Local energy, initiatives supplant.  
Replacing at risk

User energy, capture and storage.  
Eco-dwelling plan

Local water works,  supplanting initiative.
Replace the at risk

User water need.  Capturing and storing half.
Securing supply

Communications, local initiatives.
Protecting our needs

Local healthy food, life saving initiative.
Planting guaranteed

Sort unemployment, local work available.
Agriculture base

Radical transport - initiatives needed.
Change made possible

Season’s colours blur - in ageing contemplation
chilling warm breezes

Ganges dried mud - dust
Armed hungry thirsty tide
Generations despair,  lost

Our politicians -
squabble condemn progeny.
Flee panic and die

HAIKU SEQUENCE FINISHED

HAIBUN PROSE BEING ADDED
Day by Day
This haiku sequenced eco-haibun needs prose and additional haiku added day by day.  Contributing comment and reactions considered for inclusion...

copyright©DJThomas@inbox.com 2010
- May 2013
its starting to near october again
the time of the year
when everything goes to ****
when the walls get smaller and smaller
until my shoulders press in on themselves
and i choke, choke, choke

its starting to near october again
the time of year
when people show their true colors
when my friends become
judgmental cold mocking
and the walls isolate me

its starting to near october again
my best friend's birthday
halloween
first report card of the year
those are all okay things
i have a bit of breathing room

its starting to near october again
the memories take a hold of me
dragging me down into their murkiness
taking the light from my mind
replacing it with nothing
nothing is there

its starting to near october again
i wish i wasn't alone
Matt Revans Oct 2015
My autism's a part of me,

But it is apart, you see.

...

Who are you?

With your ‘normal’ view.

Are you just one thing, or are you a person

With thoughts & feelings, that are your own unique version.

Preferences, ideas, talents, and dreams?

That are bound by senses that meet at their seams.

Are you fat, short sighted or visually impaired?

Are you ever wondering why I just stood and stared.

Those may be the things that I saw the first time I meet you,

But you’re more than just your ‘normal’ diagnosis…. True?

As an adult, you have control over how you’re defined.

Your normality means your perceptions are refined.

So why would you single out one characteristic of mine that you can make known.

As a child, I am still unfolding, I’m not fully grown.

Neither you nor I yet know of what I am capable.

If you think of me as just one thing, then one thing’s inescapable.

You run the danger of assuming I have no chance of achieving.

And my heightened senses know this, it’s only you you’re deceiving

For I am not endowed with any ordinary sense.

You need to know this before I commence.

You take for granted sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.

Never once realising that these things can be as painful as hell

For me.

You see.

My world often feels hostile, and makes me so fearful.

I may appear withdrawn or belligerent, whilst others are cheerful.

Or mean to you, or antagonistic,

Defending myself, then going ballistic.

You tell me we’re going on a trip to the shops

And out of the world my safety net instantly drops.

My hearing, you see, is hyper acute.

But I’m put in the car, though I loudly refute.

At the shops, walls of people jabber and whoop.

The loudspeaker booms and adds to the soup.

Music blares and lashes and whooshes.

Tills beep and cough, a coffee grinder swooshes.

The meat cutter screeches, a baby starts wailing,

I’m starting to malfunction and am rapidly flailing

As trolleys pass creaking, and fluorescent lights hum.

I’m starting to panic, but also turn numb.

My brain can’t filter the input, the voltage is massive

I’m in overload with no chance of staying passive.

My sense of smell is stratospheric.

That fish on the counter is NOT atmospheric.

The man in front hasn’t showered today,

That Stilton cheese – someone take it away!

A baby goes past, it’s ***** needs changing.

Things are going faster and turning deranging

They’re mopping up pickles on aisle two with some bleach and a rag.

My stomach is churning, and I’m starting to gag..

And there’s so much hitting my eyes!

This trip has turned into the world's worst surprise.

The fluorescent light

Is not only too bright,

it’s that flicker.

The space seems to be moving, getting quicker and quicker.

The pulsating light bounces off everything and distorts what I am seeing.

I don’t know what I’m doing, or saying, or being.

There are too many items for me to be able to focus.

The world starts to drain me of my internal locus.

My eyes try to compensate by tunnelling my vision

Fans on the ceiling, twist my senses into nuclear fission.

All this affects how I feel just standing there,

and I can’t even tell where my body is in space, do I care?

You’re yelling at me now, and shaking my shoulder

But the fiery fog is down and is starting to smoulder

It isn’t that I don’t want to hear your instruction.

I just can’t understand, due to mass self-destruction.

You're shouting now, but what does "£$%^&&% NOW! !£$%^&*" mean?

My senses will **** me in a collusion so obscene.

Once we’re back at the kids home, it all feels less absurd.

And now when you speak, I can hear every word.

Simple instructions, that I know off by heart.

And I cling onto these so I won’t fall apart.

You tell me what you want me to do next and I’m able to reply.

Now I’m happy and it’s easy for me to comply.

Now I’m OK and I’m running about

And performing my ritualised songs, which I shout.

Then a visitor grabs me saying, “Hold your horses, cowboy!” – This means danger!

I can’t stop the horses, I’m me, not the Lone Ranger!

And I’m thrown into panic when what you mean is, “Stop running.”

But I don’t know that! Those stampeding horses are coming!!

That’s my life, you see, it’s not “a piece of cake”

When there’s no dessert in sight and you’ve made a mistake.

When you say, “its pouring cats and dogs,” I see pets flooding from the sky.

Tell me, “It’s raining hard,” so I won’t fear the animals will die.

Puns, sarcasm and allusion

Simply generate confusion.

Tell me facts and keep things clear

So I can live, yet not in fear.

It’s hard for me to tell you what I need when my senses are reeling

When I don’t have a way to describe what I’m feeling.

I may be hungry, frustrated, frightened, or perplexed.

But I can’t find the words, and lash out, angry and vexed.

Be alert for my body language, or my gestures and obsessions

Then you’ll handle my feelings like your own treasured possessions.

Watch out for me compensating for not knowing the right word

By mimicking my favourite film star, or something just as absurd.

Rattling off words or whole scripts, which will leave you confounded

That I’ve memorised from Disney, because they make me feel grounded.

They may come from the TV, or speeches, or a book

And though they make people give a funny look

I just know that saying them gets me off the hook.

Show me, show me! I’m visual, you see.

And I’ll understand rather than you just telling me.

And be prepared to show countless times.

I’m listening, despite my ritualised rhymes.

Visual supports help me move through my day.

They relieve me of the stress and I feel OK.

I don’t have to remember what’s happening next

For I operate on a visual text.

This makes for smooth transitions in my life

And we’ll finally progress without anger or strife.

I need to see something to learn it, because spoken words are like steam to me;

They evaporate before my mind's eye, and are gone instantly,

Before I even have a chance to make sense of them,

They've died in the ether, leaving me in mayhem.

I don’t have instant-processing skills.

Instructions and information are my life giving pills

Images can stay in front of me for as long as I need,

and will be just the same in years, for they'll never recede.

Without visual help, I live the constant frustration

of knowing that I’m missing big blocks of information,

Not to mention falling short, by being a misfit

And I'm helpless to do anything about it.

Unlike other people, I'm unable to learn

If it's normal interaction for which you do yearn.

I’m constantly made to feel that I’m not good enough

And people are stern and people are tough.

They think I need taking in hand and need fixing.

Never knowing the world and my brain are tranfixing

I avoid trying any new things, for I'm sure I'll get 'dissed'

And another grown up will be angry and get 'real ******'.

But no matter how “constructive” you think you’re being.

Look for my strengths, though they're hard for the seeing.

There is more than one right way to do most things.

It may look like I don’t want to play with the other kids on the swings

But it may be that I simply do not know how to start

They just think I'm weird, and set me apart.

Teach me how to play with others.

Remove my autistic shrouded covers.

Encourage other children to invite me along.

They might learn something of value from my life's different song.

And rather than spend my day as separate, secluded.

I might show an ethereal delight at being included.

I do best in games that have a clear beginning and end.

Random play is something my fears won't transcend.

And just one other thing, a sort of confession

I cannot interpret a ****** expression

Or body language, or other peoples' emotion

So in group situations I'm resigned to demotion.

I want to learn, I want you to teach me.

Reach into my mind and help me to see.

If I laugh when Tommy falls off the climbing frame,

It’s that I don’t know what to say, nastiness isn't to blame

Talk to me about Tommy’s feelings and teach me to say,

“Are you hurt, Tommy, I'll get teacher, then you'll be okay?”

If you don't I'll meltdown or blow-up, and get in a stew

And this is a thousand times worse for me than for you.

For my mind will go into overload

My sense of equilibrium will start to off-road.

For I'm well past the limit of my social ability.

As those off road lights glare at my own disability.

If you can figure out why my meltdowns occur, they can be prevented

And my behaviours will abate, less frequently lamented.

Keep notes about me and a pattern may emerge.

As your understanding of me will gradually converge.

Remember that everything I do is a form of communication.

It tells you, when my words cannot, how I’m reacting to each situation.

My behavior may have a physical cause.

Think for a moment, just have a pause.

Food allergies and sleep problems can affect my behaviour.

Just look for signs, for you might be my Saviour.

Because I may not be able to tell you about these things.

That blunt my affect and cause my mood swings.

Throw away thoughts like, “If you would just—” and “Why can’t you—?”

You didn’t fulfill every expectation your parents had either, that's true.

And would you like to witness a constant rewind.

Of the traumatic deficits by which you're defined?

I didn’t choose to have autism.

Or to live with this division

Remember that it’s happening to me, not to you.

But without understanding, my chances remain few.

With love and support, my horizons are broader

But I can't live my life by other peoples order.

Patience. Patience. Patience, are the three words we need to live by

For my dreams to be reached, and my confidence fly.

View my autism as a different ability

Rather than as a freak show disability.

Look past what you may see as limitations and feel for my strength

I may not be good at eye contact or conversations of length

But have you noticed that I don’t lie, or cheat at a game

Or pass judgment on people, and make them to blame?

I rely on you, if you can make me your personal vocation

All that I might become won’t happen without you as my foundation.

Be my advocate, be my guide

Be my strength, stand at my side.

Love me for who I am, and not what you know

And we’ll see just how far I can go.

Matt Revans 2014
©Copyright
Universal Thrum Jul 2018
I'm leaving Carly's place after an all day ****** that had me convinced that paradise lay in the legs of Nate's sister wearing a unicorn onesie, and as they put on Sgt. Peppers and lay there the ****** freudian passion play overcame my capacity for archetype observation and I proceeded to walk around the room thanking everybody in that space and time for the gift of starting the **** with Nate's sister, the beat changed and they turned on me and said I needed to give her space, they all became timeless aliens traveling through time to **** and I was one of them coming online in a loop, and as long as I stayed awake I would remember and not be *****. I sat cross legged holding my friend sams hands, looking into his eyes, saying aloud we're creating the universe constructing all as the three smartest people of all time, forever throughout we died but never died, as long as we could stay awake, they all wore red and I couldn't trust any of them, I fired off mad questions and demanded to know the secrets of the universe and why woman wasn't the answer, I called up to nate to bring her down to me, and generally became a raving lunatic
      after some time of sam being soulmate and accepting him forever as my lover self same image, and also calling him ugly as im ugly, then channeling Brittany through him and countless other regressive exercises, we started inhaling nitrous gas, and the world became one stretched out moment
       and I kept calling out before, all the way up, as it were the secret spell with a handshake to fool the devil
         I thought Nate a mad spirit habituating this plane as a long gone failed hero plagued by the madness of wanting to **** his sister and forced to watch all his friends be aware of their own lust, so that pushed him into clowning, which he is an expert, that primal lust took me up and id taken a holy mandate to **** this beautiful creature and ascend to paradise,
when they slipped her upstairs they left her rainbow onesie, i felt heaven become another step remote and my faith tested, I resolved to be the last awake and never die, I walked up to the attic, and saw the light beaming from the window


            Sam dropped me off at the press grill so I could eat some grub,
then I met up with Tyler for a drink somewhere while he told me his story of meeting a guy in a skyline chilis bathroom drunk at 3 am, he said the guy was standing at the ****** but wasn't *******. Ty asked him if he was done and the guy put Ty in a chokehold with his pants down, according to Ty the cops came in and he was putting clean shots into the guys mug, he is contemplating leaving town before they can indict him for felonious assault, I told him Canadas nice but Venezuela doesn't have an extradition treaty, come to think of it neither does Cuba, but Ty is too proud for that probably
   anyways we meet Carly being a dancing beauty in a high falootin joint with string lights called Julep, the only reason to mention it is because as we were leaving a guy was bent over the rail vomiting and looking wretched he noticed us watching him as we smoked our cigarettes off to the side and immediately decided that he wasn't some kind of side show freak to be gawked at, he became threatening in the most base and pathetic way a human can, and his bride came to tell us to ******* with her father, father of the bride shaking my hand, we eventually left that scene and walked to Oddfellows where I saw Sam Cohan and he bought me a beer, good chap, we talked until I stepped toward Carly, Tyler and a fine looking strange *****
I touched Carly and received an awkward unmemorable introduction to the strange *****. She walked away but lurked and locked eyes with me as the evening rolled on
later Carly told me that the girl demanded to meet the guy who looks like Heath Ledger, a sure fire ****, so Carly is grinding on my **** and my backs to the bar and Tyler already got me a beer, and there I was, a pirate king
I took Carly out after the lights came on, and was going to give Tyler the run of my place, he disappeared into the night and I showed Carly my favorite smelling tree, a pink mimosa still in bloom late July, we almost ****** on my car, until I went back to her place and we ****** until $430, rising at noon, I left telling her we had an hour to get ready to journey to Findlay for Jim's wedding
I showered and brushed my teeth and collected my suit and put it on without a tie
I picked up Carly and set out upon the road, but made a quick stop for a bite
two deaf guys ordered in front of me and the kid working the register said my glasses were cool, along the way I was telling Carly the story of how I wore make up for the first time to a middle school dance, and she said she had to *****, I didn't believe her at first until she tried to stick her head out the window half way rolled down, I managed to get it down all the way and wet streaks of human gut waste caught the wind and splattered my window
we pulled over and I went to get her some napkins to clean herself off as I squeeged the car, she tried to wipe the window with the napkins, sweet girl. The wedding started at 3:30 and we didn't have more than five minutes to spare, she found her vape pen 20 minute out as Heather started to send me worried messages, as I was set to read a passage, little did I know that I was leading off the whole affair, I arrived and was quickly rushed to meet the mothers and have a boutonnière pinned to my lapel , the women all looked stunning and I congratulated each in turn as they shoved a program in my hand, Tiffany took me through the drill, we walked up to the stage and took our places on the bench, looking out at the beautiful shining faces,


I was the only one not wearing a tie, but thats not important, I saw Jim and embraced him with all the love I could muster, he looked at me and said that he knew I would make it, that he knew that he just had to trust the flow, and I would appear in the nick of time, the pastor threw his hands in the air and welcomed the families, the mothers lit candles, and then Tiffany looked at me and said that it was my turn, I stepped up to the Beema and gazed out over the crowd, trying to summon something clever, nothing good came to mind and so I opened my mouth and said, "a reading from Genesis" and then put every fiber of my being into reminding the room that it is Gods will that we be fruitful and multiply. I'm told I slammed my hands down for emphasis and let out a hearty amen, a man's man's amen, and turned and took one giant step off the podium with two baby stairs, I gracefully flowed into the bench having averted a complete embarrassment, and then tactfully left the stage with Tiffany after her read.   Jim looked at me after mine with a nod, and I said the word strong, that read cemented my status as a star of the party, and the mojo flowed, I was called the cash guy by the hotel, for checking in as Atlantis Grosshammer, $200 depost, we drank and danced and an old lady came to me to say that I have a beautiful soul
I thanked Jim's father for helping to create my friend, and danced around bottles
the cake was good
I told Carly I always catch the brides garter, at every wedding I've ever been. I saw Jim's men assemble for his toss, I let the men come and put myself in the mix, Jim turned his back and had a misfire,
the temptation to collect it passed all of us by thankfully, and he was set to fire again, it came to me and I snatched it out of the air, cold as ice I walked off the floor only with eyes for Carly not even saying a word to Jim, I put that thing on my head and went back to Jim threw him on my shoulders and swung him around like we were in a broadway musical
two kids playing in the street,
he said its the best moment, and so it goes
JayceeJellies Nov 2014
She comes over for the night,
She seems to be alright.
I'm not sure if I like her yet,
But that doesn't seem to matter,
She's just that close to my sister.

She started to stay over on school nights,
Something just wasn't right.
Soon enough she never left,
I began to feel like I was being replaced.

I'm not trying to sound selfish,
And no I'm not jealous.
But I am confused,
Why are you telling me this unfortunate news?

She hasn't left for weeks.
I'm sick of being the subject of greed.
I want my family back.
Just tell me that she'll eventually leave.

I'm now starting to feel neglected.
I've been replaced in every way I had imagined.
But you don't seem to see it that way.
I don't think the girl is leaving any time soon.
Mak Jul 2014
The room was silent. The only sound to be heard was the slow, steady dripping from my mother’s IV.      

“What do you mean, you’re dying?”

Multiple Sclerosis was, in short, a ***** of a disease. Somewhere along the span of my mother's 35 short years on this planet, her immune system made a giant mistake. For uncertain reasons, her body began to attack nerve cells, severely affecting her brain's processing ability and mobility. The only medication that had ever subdued the symptoms was beginning to **** her.

“It isn’t an immediate thing, Makayla. I still have plenty of time.”

Turning away from my mother, I wiped tears from my eyes. There was no way in hell I was going to let my family see me cry. Absolutely no way. This was a joke. My mom was not going to die.

“Kayla, baby, talk to us. It’s okay.”

With a deep breath, I forced a smile, as I often did, and blinked away all traces of tears from my gray eyes. Turning around to meet my parents’ worried expressions, I simply nodded.

“How long?”

The question came out as more of a statement than a question. The morbid implication of those two short words spoke worlds louder than any words I could muster.

“5 years, at the absolute worst.”

At that, I stood, and left. I ran, and ran, and ran. I ran until my lungs hurt, and then kept running. But no matter where or how fast I went, I knew I could not escape the horrible reality of the matter.

The woman who gave me life was losing hers.

I was always the type of person who knew how to talk my way out of any situation.

And this time, there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

There’s no sweet-talking death.

And with that, I began to accept her demise, and my defeat.

///

The first sip burned my esophagus, and I felt the blaze continue to my stomach, where it left a lasting warmth. I coughed a little, as the hazy feeling of drunkenness set in, setting my head spinning and my insides ablaze.

The past two months (52 days, 4 hours, and 30-something seconds) were a continuous downward spiral into a constant intoxicated state. Instead of addressing my feelings in the endless sea of counseling sessions and semi-sympathetic family therapy hours, I isolated myself. When my mother asked how I was, my reply remained the usual, “Doing great, mom.”

I was not, in fact, doing great. The alcohol wrapped itself into me, braided itself within my better sense, and I began to let myself fall apart. The wall I so often hid behind, the wall of perfection, of cool, was crumbling. Short, yet deep cuts lined my thighs, just high enough to be hidden by the hem of my shorts.

My mother had the opportunity to save her own life. Russian research had found a possible cure for the disease that had been plaguing her very existence. 3 weeks of chemotherapy, followed by a few months of intensive care, and she would be normal once again.

My mother denied the treatment.

“Too much money,” she said.

“Too inconvenient,” she said.

Compared to the life of my mother, no amount of money nor convenience mattered.

I was furious.

I was drunk.

///

My mind swam, speech slurred, fingers trembled.

My phone sat in front of me, propped up on a gray tissue box, which had been halfway expended due to that night’s waterworks. The Coca-Cola can which held my ***/coke concoction was long past empty. I was drunk, and screaming words like ‘sorry’ and ‘doesn’t deserve this’ into a pillow. I knew my mother deserved to live. Compared to me, she was a saint. I felt empty and pathetic. I deserved to die.

I convinced myself that maybe if I did something extreme, she would value her own life more than she did.

I held tightly onto the railing of my house’s only set of stairs, as I attempted to keep my balance. I walked drunkenly to the medicine cabinet, careful not to make noise and wake my parents. I grabbed as many pill bottles as I could carry.

Exactly 41 pills of assorted shapes, sizes, and colors sat in lines on my bed. Small to large, rainbow order. The comfort of organization wasn’t helping this time. I wanted to die.

Before starting my buffet of medication, my phone lit up. One new text.

“I know you were feeling upset earlier, and I just wanted to remind you that you are special. You matter.” I instantly felt even ******* for what I was about to do.

I laid down in bed, beginning to drown in my own tears, and let myself fall asleep.

Neither I nor my mother would be dying tonight.
I'm head starting the challenging life
12th grade decides my future strife.
Herein lies the mystery of tomorrow
Destiny of the mighty ship in my carefull row.

Not asking for incredible flourishing results
But delivering support for my stupendous work.
Not asking for imaginative unreachable marks
But holding my hands to provide the best of myself.
Not asking to pour elixir for hardwork devoid outcome
But strolling me through the gates of earnestness.
Not asking for your substitution in me
But to confront me with your intrepid grace.
Not asking for grade ten replica
But lending me the same earnest virtue.

Help me ignore the incompatible watchers,
To provide the least hope of comparing
Falling in despair in other's successful fruits.
But to help better and improvise my solitary results
And shelter me in your house of modesty.
No beneficial ranks but the submissive marks
that lends a hair to my cognitive efforts
To grant me light in the death of night.

Let me blossom as tranquily as the sunflower
Yet not vanish in the glory of jubliation
But gradually offer me petals
And extend the reliance day by day.
Mindful and heeding my compatible hardwork
Finally, let me conquer the glamorous colour
Of my utmost individuality.
Rehabilating the small hopes intro pristine reality
Aware of the hunger turning to lime light
To strike a chord for my year before.

Take me on your hands, float me through
legitimate mistakes, rip me apart in the wave
of unquenchable thirst and finally wrap me out as
a champion badge of jaded grade twelve.

Finally,
Bless me God, provide eternal marvels
Bless me God, honour the righteous path
As the testimony of your judicious grace
Bless me God, I'm starting life (grade twelve)
Rachel Rode Jan 2018
I am starting to realize  
That although you are beautiful
You are not the only beautiful person I will ever love
I am starting to realize  
That I miss you less every day
And breathing has come easier to me recently
I am starting to realize  
That my chest does not cave in as it once did
At the sound of your name
I am starting to realize  
That there is no point in grieving for the one page
On which my name was once written
When I have become a thousand new chapters
In my own story
I know I loved you then
Perhaps I always will
But I no longer collapse for you as I once did
And I never will again
call it the greenhouse effect or whatever
but it just doesn't rain like it used to.
I particularly remember the rains of the
depression era.
there wasn't any money but there was
plenty of rain.
it wouldn't rain for just a night or
a day,
it would RAIN for 7 days and 7
nights
and in Los Angeles the storm drains
weren't built to carry off taht much
water
and the rain came down THICK and
MEAN and
STEADY
and you HEARD it banging against
the roofs and into the ground
waterfalls of it came down
from roofs
and there was HAIL
big ROCKS OF ICE
bombing
exploding smashing into things
and the rain
just wouldn't
STOP
and all the roofs leaked-
dishpans,
cooking pots
were placed all about;
they dripped loudly
and had to be emptied
again and
again.
the rain came up over the street curbings,
across the lawns, climbed up the steps and
entered the houses.
there were mops and bathroom towels,
and the rain often came up through the
toilets:bubbling, brown, crazy,whirling,
and all the old cars stood in the streets,
cars that had problems starting on a
sunny day,
and the jobless men stood
looking out the windows
at the old machines dying
like living things out there.
the jobless men,
failures in a failing time
were imprisoned in their houses with their
wives and children
and their
pets.
the pets refused to go out
and left their waste in
strange places.
the jobless men went mad
confined with
their once beautiful wives.
there were terrible arguments
as notices of foreclosure
fell into the mailbox.
rain and hail, cans of beans,
bread without butter;fried
eggs, boiled eggs, poached
eggs; peanut butter
sandwiches, and an invisible
chicken in every ***.
my father, never a good man
at best, beat my mother
when it rained
as I threw myself
between them,
the legs, the knees, the
screams
until they
seperated.
"I'll **** you," I screamed
at him. "You hit her again
and I'll **** you!"
"Get that son-of-a-*******
kid out of here!"
"no, Henry, you stay with
your mother!"
all the households were under
seige but I believe that ours
held more terror than the
average.
and at night
as we attempted to sleep
the rains still came down
and it was in bed
in the dark
watching the moon against
the scarred window
so bravely
holding out
most of the rain,
I thought of Noah and the
Ark
and I thought, it has come
again.
we all thought
that.
and then, at once, it would
stop.
and it always seemed to
stop
around 5 or 6 a.m.,
peaceful then,
but not an exact silence
because things continued to
drip
  drip
    drip
  

and there was no smog then
and by 8 a.m.
there was a
blazing yellow sunlight,
Van Gogh yellow-
crazy, blinding!
and then
the roof drains
relieved of the rush of
water
began to expand in the warmth:
PANG!PANG!PANG!
and everybody got up and looked outside
and there were all the lawns
still soaked
greener than green will ever
be
and there were birds
on the lawn
CHIRPING like mad,
they hadn't eaten decently
for 7 days and 7 nights
and they were weary of
berries
and
they waited as the worms
rose to the top,
half drowned worms.
the birds plucked them
up
and gobbled them
down;there were
blackbirds and sparrows.
the blackbirds tried to
drive the sparrows off
but the sparrows,
maddened with hunger,
smaller and quicker,
got their
due.
the men stood on their porches
smoking cigarettes,
now knowing
they'd have to go out
there
to look for that job
that probably wasn't
there, to start that car
that probably wouldn't
start.
and the once beautiful
wives
stood in their bathrooms
combing their hair,
applying makeup,
trying to put their world back
together again,
trying to forget that
awful sadness that
gripped them,
wondering what they could
fix for
breakfast.
and on the radio
we were told that
school was now
open.
and
soon
there I was
on the way to school,
massive puddles in the
street,
the sun like a new
world,
my parents back in that
house,
I arrived at my classroom
on time.
Mrs. Sorenson greeted us
with, "we won't have our
usual recess, the grounds
are too wet."
"AW!" most of the boys
went.
"but we are going to do
something special at
recess," she went on,
"and it will be
fun!"
well, we all wondered
what that would
be
and the two hour wait
seemed a long time
as Mrs.Sorenson
went about
teaching her
lessons.
I looked at the little
girls, they looked so
pretty and clean and
alert,
they sat still and
straight
and their hair was
beautiful
in the California
sunshine.
the the recess bells rang
and we all waited for the
fun.
then Mrs. Sorenson told us:
"now, what we are going to
do is we are going to tell
each other what we did
during the rainstorm!
we'll begin in the front row
and go right around!
now, Michael, you're first!. . ."
well, we all began to tell
our stories, Michael began
and it went on and on,
and soon we realized that
we were all lying, not
exactly lying but mostly
lying and some of the boys
began to snicker and some
of the girls began to give
them ***** looks and
Mrs.Sorenson said,
"all right! I demand a
modicum of silence
here!
I am interested in what
you did
during the rainstorm
even if you
aren't!"
so we had to tell our
stories and they were
stories.
one girl said that
when the rainbow first
came
she saw God's face
at the end of it.
only she didn't say which end.
one boy said he stuck
his fishing pole
out the window
and caught a little
fish
and fed it to his
cat.
almost everybody told
a lie.
the truth was just
too awful and
embarassing to tell.
then the bell rang
and recess was
over.
"thank you," said Mrs.
Sorenson, "that was very
nice.
and tomorrow the grounds
will be dry
and we will put them
to use
again."
most of the boys
cheered
and the little girls
sat very straight and
still,
looking so pretty and
clean and
alert,
their hair beautiful in a sunshine that
the world might never see
again.
and
Theia Gwen Feb 2014
My mother is one of those people
Who buys stupid things with trivial cliches on them
Needlepoint pillows with overused sayings
And there is a wooden sign hanging from the wall
She probably wasted at least 15 dollars on it
I pass by it every day
But only recently have I started thinking about it
It says,
"Home is the starting place of love and dreams."
Which I find ironic
Since this house that I live in is not a home
Which I realize is a cliche in itself
But it's true
This house comes with memories engrained
Of my mother yelling and screaming
Of me purging and crying
So where is my home?
Where is my "starting place of love and dreams?"
I've made a home in you
I want to memorize all of you
Count every single freckle on your face
And curl up beside you and leave my memories in your brain
Your arms wrapped around me is when I'm home
Your smile is my home,
Your laugh,
Your kindness,
Telling me the things my mother never meant
May be that's why even when I'm in my house
And we're not together
I can't stop thinking about my home
Julie Grenness Jan 2016
So, I'm starting over again,
Why is this thought in my brain,
That patterns repeat for everyone,
For me, good men appear to be none,
Control freaks take a sweet witch,
And turn her into a right *****!
You can't please bullies, let's say,
I suppose I'll learn that one day,
This pattern long held in my brain,
Being a doormat is a drain!
So, I'm starting over again.
FEEDBACK WELCOME
Modern Serenity Oct 2014
Sitting at my computer and starring at the screen
I'm starting to get bored and feel like I want to scream!
I'm bored out of mind without a muse
Praying that I soon get an idea to use

Looking at my poem links
starting to think my work really stinks
I finally get inspired and it lights off a spark
I'm starting to feel like a glow in the dark

I'm trying to get a interesting find
but as soon as the electricity goes off so does my mind
That was the moment where I get angry, upset and it cant be ignored
It repeats it cycle and I'm at the beginning of ''I'm bored''
#Bored as ever
Mateuš Conrad Sep 2018
.you might ask: why isn't third-party "issues": 34% in bold?! simple... depends who you do it with... AND believe me... we must be living in the golden age of prostitution... god they care about protection, one even said to me: i get checked for S.T.D.'s on a regular basis... and i'm pretty sure AIDS doesn't travel from the oral consumption of ****... stomach acids and whatnot... see... transparency... even if it was "****"... when she's crying like that... would i walk into a shop a buy / steal a leg of lamb with or without the usage of a transaction meta-object? hell... i'm interested in the metaphysics of money, sue me... but you never invest a person into the formula of ******* with a *******... there's absolutely zilch, in terms of investing with something beside your body... your character and what not... pure Newtonian physics... two ****-naked bodies colliding... and since it's a legal transaction... ****... what lie is there, breach of conduct? if you don't pay... the **** gets his way: adding fist to the face, first, and then a fist up your ***: and you can scream ****! ****! ****! all you want by then... the English can't accomplish the perfected art of an affair akin to the French... it's not in their Huguenots' nature... so why the elaborate lie? **** it... an hour at a brothel... and let me tell you... a ******* will ask you questions like a priest: questions like: do you have a girlfriend? affair over what? an hour, an impersonal hour with what allures a soul, a thought, but is fundamentally the reciprocal posit of your own body... sure as **** beats the ******* / stripper profession ****-tease... god... they're so ******* ethical these days, actually caring, telling you whether or not they check themselves regularly for STDs... mind you... one of them told me a story about a ****** in a Spanish brothel, by some pundit.

let's be honest, for once...
there's no point parading the matter,
orchestrated by some
distant pompous sentiment
for: whatever life was
supposed to be, for all of us,
but never became -
an alignment of thought and
being...
              
  what the **** has someone
done with my fox?! well... "my" fox...
he hasn't been seen
for two nights and i'm getting
worried!


i am a drunk -
        my maternal grandfather
was a drunk,
my paternal grandfather was
a drunk, my uncle is a drunk...
only my father with his
father complex is the odd one out...
genes took over...
if i didn't drink,
as i once did...
   bah... a fairy tale...
           why bother lying?

point being: i'm far from a drunk fiend...
a fiend nonetheless -
benevolent at times -
like... ah... **** it... whatever:
i'm not going to gloat about
my antics...

but at least i own my predisposition,
and thank **** that i'm
not looking for a partner -
as my grandmother used to
say about her son (my uncle):
it be better he stays alone
that brings misery to any woman...

hey, i have a drunk's perfect
stash of interests!
   i'm not going to repent either...
do "you" even think it would
be possible to
read a single book of philosophy
when paired to a woman?
i don't think so...

            and the hours i spend at
night, headphones on,
listening to **** like 90s sub-grunge
akin to mad season (song,
i'm alone)?
   **** no!

                i'd have philosophy in
body, looking across from me...
    i'm starting to contemplate
that man has internalized
the perfect woman...
while woman?
  has internalized the most imperfect
man...

           i'm starting to think
that, the whole physical reality,
puritanical materialism -
hell - going as far as undermining
the theory with transgenderism...
can i say that men are more patient
than women, when it should
be the opposite?
   well... then again, "should"...

i am what any woman would
consider - broken goods...
good... i like that...
       it means i can be left the **** alone...
drink as much as i want,
read as much of what middle-aged
women call: drivel (philosophy)
and spend my time listening
to a back-catalog of bands from
the 90s... or the prior century...

what... with the current statistics
from the Sunday Times Style
magazine?
      53% contra 32% of women
and men (respectively)
          are happier post-divorce...
61% contra 47% are happy staying single
post-divorce...
happy new singletons:
aged 55...
                 42% of marriages
are affected by divorce...
                86% cited not being ashamed
of divorce...
      ill harbor imbedded in
a former spouse men (17%) - women (8%)...
argument for divorce:
my spouse "changed" (49%) -
now... this is interesting -
i remember seeing this same *******
over a wide span of time...
the second time i saw her -
she said to me: but you haven't changed -
and subsequently starting crying
while drunk during ***...
so i know where "change" argument comes
from...
    ***** i aged... finito!
males more likely to date within
the first 6 months...
     66% had children of ex-spouses...
    90% agreed that staying in an unhappy
marriage is worse than divorce...
   i bet 99% would find life more rosy
than being dead: what with being wed
to life... sure as ****: i've seen my grandparents
at it... my parents... life outside of
marital constraints is so ******* rosy!
food stamps and no central heating...
rosy as ****!
          third-party "issues": 34%...
lack of communication: 29%
    incompatibility: 23%
          abuse: 22%...
           different "life goals": 20%...
***-related problems: 11%...
                  in-laws: 7%,
  parenting problems: 5%...
          financial issues: 14%...
well... well well...
isn't life just peachy!
           those percentages in bold?
they're in bold for a ******* reason...
the only reasons that would
make a divorce definitely prudish...
    the rest?
fickle people... little fickle people...
it's like eating a bowl of Haribo sweets!
the choices!

stats? Style report -
     1,060 of women and men surveyed
Fleur Britten...
     Style Magazine 23 Sept 2018...

well... i'm out, always was out...
no woman wants a drink,
and i have Sophia to think about...
       and what a spectacular failure
i am in this department...
the longest "relationship" i was in
didn't even pass the half year mark...
and that's even before i started
my career in drinking with Jack -
(by the way, he sends his warmest
regards) -

            bitter? no... not really...
i can't share a bed with a ******* cat,
let alone something much larger
and not furry...
             my bitterness dies within
the confines of an hour with
some Bulgarian girl
   who cries when she notices
my heart is an unwavering rock...

            hell... when she started crying
like that during ***,
talking about her daughter...
    what are you supposed to do
if not stop, cuddle,
and kiss her tears?
randoughs Jan 2015
The era of social media and virtual interaction
Where it is so important to keep your reputation
And yet indeed it'll take you nowhere
Because you're just another particle in their atmosphere

No matter how hard you try to seem kind
They just can't bother to reply, they seem to be blind
No matter how many thousands of follows you've got
Your friends are still the same old scattered lot

Selfies galore, plenty of them
Show yourself to yourself, feel like a gem
You go with your friends riding a bike
Post a picture on FB and it gets many a like
You're all content about it, it feels so nice
After which, conversation turns to ice

At gatherings telephones sound
Ringing all day, a new friend was found
Introduce yourself, one more time again
And fall into oblivion, it's starting to rain
Just how I feel about virtual interaction
Cassidy Jackson Nov 2015
It's starting to get cold outside

Leaves falling
And trees dying

It's starting to get cold outside

The gloomy sky
The sad goodbyes

It's starting to get cold outside

Happiness vanishes
Sadness emerges

It's starting to get cold outside

Coldness seeps into the soul
Shivers caressing the spine

It's starting to get cold outside
Trevon Haywood Mar 2016
Come under my umbrella, umbrella, umbrella.
Come under my umbrella, it's starting to rain.
With thunder and lightning and thunder and lightning.
Come under my umbrella, it's starting to rain.
☔⚡
I dream of greener pastures
and I ain't getting any younger
struggling to find the time
searchin' my pockets for pennies
lottery tickets and sunshine dust
well I never put my eggs in a basket
imagining the fruits of my labour
were full of vitamin c
they always told me education was key

No, I don't rely on a teacher
or confide in someone who doesn't
confide in me
well I hope the demon's love is true
or I'll find myself even more lost
hopelessly used and abused
and I'm just killing time
oh yes, I'm just killing time
starting to think that time is killing me

Dreaming of things '*** I'm a dreamer
and we ain't getting any younger
you said you'd get married when
you're twenty-five and I said
I'd quite like to get married now
but I can't find the time
searchin' for the minerals to ask you
can't afford the wine or pleasantries
they always told us we need to believe

No, I don't believe any preachers
or confide in someone who doesn't
confide in me
well I hope the demon that loves me is you
or I'll find myself even more lost
hopelessly wasted and confused
and I'm just killing time
oh yes, I'm just killing time
starting to think that time is killing me

I dream of strength and closure
and I ain't getting any younger
once I was three weeks sober
searchin' for reasons to quit
starting to think that I never needed it
well I never had any eggs in my basket
but I always had a *** to **** in
and a window to throw it out of
they always told me that what goes up

No, I don't get my hopes up
or confide in someone who doesn't
confide in me
well I lie because I hope my dreams come true
or I'll find myself even more lost
hopelessly sinking without you
and I'm just killing time
oh yes, I'm just killing time
starting to think that time is killing me
.
.
a dreamers song

— The End —