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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.
There are sleeping dreams and waking dreams;
What seems is not always as it seems.

I looked out of my window in the sweet new morning,
And there I saw three barges of manifold adorning
Went sailing toward the East:
The first had sails like fire,
The next like glittering wire,
But sackcloth were the sails of the least;
And all the crews made music, and two had spread a feast.

The first choir breathed in flutes,
And fingered soft guitars;
The second won from lutes
Harmonious chords and jars,
With drums for stormy bars:
But the third was all of harpers and scarlet trumpeters;
Notes of triumph, then
An alarm again,
As for onset, as for victory, rallies, stirs,
Peace at last and glory to the vanquishers.

The first barge showed for figurehead a Love with wings;
The second showed for figurehead a Worm with stings;
The third, a Lily tangled to a Rose which clings.
The first bore for freight gold and spice and down;
The second bore a sword, a sceptre, and a crown;
The third, a heap of earth gone to dust and brown.
Winged Love meseemed like Folly in the face;
Stinged Worm meseemed loathly in his place;
Lily and Rose were flowers of grace.

Merry went the revel of the fire-sailed crew,
Singing, feasting, dancing to and fro:
Pleasures ever changing, ever graceful, ever new;
Sighs, but scarce of woe;
All the sighing
Wooed such sweet replying;
All the sighing, sweet and low,
Used to come and go
For more pleasure, merely so.
Yet at intervals some one grew tired
Of everything desired,
And sank, I knew not whither, in sorry plight,
Out of sight.

The second crew seemed ever
Wider-visioned, graver,
More distinct of purpose, more sustained of will;
With heads ***** and proud,
And voices sometimes loud;
With endless tacking, counter-tacking,
All things grasping, all things lacking,
It would seem;
Ever shifting helm, or sail, or shroud,
Drifting on as in a dream.
Hoarding to their utmost bent,
Feasting to their fill,
Yet gnawed by discontent,
Envy, hatred, malice, on their road they went.
Their freight was not a treasure,
Their music not a pleasure;
The sword flashed, cleaving through their bands,
Sceptre and crown changed hands.

The third crew as they went
Seemed mostly different;
They toiled in rowing, for to them the wind was contrary,
As all the world might see.
They labored at the oar,
While on their heads they bore
The fiery stress of sunshine more and more.
They labored at the oar hand-sore,
Till rain went splashing,
And spray went dashing,
Down on them, and up on them, more and more.
Their sails were patched and rent,
Their masts were bent,
In peril of their lives they worked and went.
For them no feast was spread,
No soft luxurious bed
Scented and white,
No crown or sceptre hung in sight;
In weariness and painfulness,
In thirst and sore distress,
They rowed and steered from left to right
With all their might.
Their trumpeters and harpers round about
Incessantly played out,
And sometimes they made answer with a shout;
But oftener they groaned or wept,
And seldom paused to eat, and seldom slept.
I wept for pity watching them, but more
I wept heart-sore
Once and again to see
Some weary man plunge overboard, and swim
To Love or Worm ship floating buoyantly:
And there all welcomed him.

The ships steered each apart and seemed to scorn each other,
Yet all the crews were interchangeable;
Now one man, now another,
--Like bloodless spectres some, some flushed by health,--
Changed openly, or changed by stealth,
Scaling a slippery side, and scaled it well.
The most left Love ship, hauling wealth
Up Worm ship's side;
While some few hollow-eyed
Left either for the sack-sailed boat;
But this, though not remote,
Was worst to mount, and whoso left it once
Scarce ever came again,
But seemed to loathe his erst companions,
And wish and work them bane.

Then I knew (I know not how) there lurked quicksands full of dread,
Rocks and reefs and whirlpools in the water-bed,
Whence a waterspout
Instantaneously leaped out,
Roaring as it reared its head.

Soon I spied a something dim,
Many-handed, grim,
That went flitting to and fro the first and second ship;
It puffed their sails full out
With puffs of smoky breath
From a smouldering lip,
And cleared the waterspout
Which reeled roaring round about
Threatening death.
With a ***** hand it steered,
And a horn appeared
On its sneering head upreared
Haughty and high
Against the blackening lowering sky.
With a hoof it swayed the waves;
They opened here and there,
Till I spied deep ocean graves
Full of skeletons
That were men and women once
Foul or fair;
Full of things that creep
And fester in the deep
And never breathe the clean life-nurturing air.

The third bark held aloof
From the Monster with the hoof,
Despite his urgent beck,
And fraught with guile
Abominable his smile;
Till I saw him take a flying leap on to that deck.
Then full of awe,
With these same eyes I saw
His head incredible retract its horn
Rounding like babe's new born,
While silvery phosphorescence played
About his dis-horned head.
The sneer smoothed from his lip,
He beamed blandly on the ship;
All winds sank to a moan,
All waves to a monotone
(For all these seemed his realm),
While he laid a strong caressing hand upon the helm.

Then a cry well nigh of despair
Shrieked to heaven, a clamor of desperate prayer.
The harpers harped no more,
While the trumpeters sounded sore
An alarm to wake the dead from their bed:
To the rescue, to the rescue, now or never,
To the rescue, O ye living, O ye dead,
Or no more help or hope for ever!--
The planks strained as though they must part asunder,
The masts bent as though they must dip under,
And the winds and the waves at length
Girt up their strength,
And the depths were laid bare,
And heaven flashed fire and volleyed thunder
Through the rain-choked air,
And sea and sky seemed to kiss
In the horror and the hiss
Of the whole world shuddering everywhere.

Lo! a Flyer swooping down
With wings to span the globe,
And splendor for his robe
And splendor for his crown.
He lighted on the helm with a foot of fire,
And spun the Monster overboard:
And that monstrous thing abhorred,
Gnashing with balked desire,
Wriggled like a worm infirm
Up the Worm
Of the loathly figurehead.
There he crouched and gnashed;
And his head re-horned, and gashed
From the other's grapple, dripped ****** red.

I saw that thing accurst
Wreak his worst
On the first and second crew:
Some with baited hook
He angled for and took,
Some dragged overboard in a net he threw,
Some he did to death
With hoof or horn or blasting breath.

I heard a voice of wailing
Where the ships went sailing,
A sorrowful voice prevailing
Above the sound of the sea,
Above the singers' voices,
And musical merry noises;
All songs had turned to sighing,
The light was failing,
The day was dying--
Ah me,
That such a sorrow should be!

There was sorrow on the sea and sorrow on the land
When Love ship went down by the bottomless quicksand
To its grave in the bitter wave.
There was sorrow on the sea and sorrow on the land
When Worm ship went to pieces on the rock-bound strand,
And the bitter wave was its grave.
But land and sea waxed hoary
In whiteness of a glory
Never told in story
Nor seen by mortal eye,
When the third ship crossed the bar
Where whirls and breakers are,
And steered into the splendors of the sky;
That third bark and that least
Which had never seemed to feast,
Yet kept high festival above sun and moon and star.
Part I

It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
‘By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?

The bridegroom’s doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin;
The guests are met, the feast is set:
Mayst hear the merry din.’

He holds him with his skinny hand,
“There was a ship,” quoth he.
‘Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!’
Eftsoons his hand dropped he.

He holds him with his glittering eye—
The Wedding-Guest stood still,
And listens like a three years’ child:
The Mariner hath his will.

The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:
He cannot choose but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.

“The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared,
Merrily did we drop
Below the kirk, below the hill,
Below the lighthouse top.

The sun came up upon the left,
Out of the sea came he!
And he shone bright, and on the right
Went down into the sea.

Higher and higher every day,
Till over the mast at noon—”
The Wedding-Guest here beat his breast,
For he heard the loud bassoon.

The bride hath paced into the hall,
Red as a rose is she;
Nodding their heads before her goes
The merry minstrelsy.

The Wedding-Guest he beat his breast,
Yet he cannot choose but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.

“And now the storm-blast came, and he
Was tyrannous and strong:
He struck with his o’ertaking wings,
And chased us south along.

With sloping masts and dipping prow,
As who pursued with yell and blow
Still treads the shadow of his foe,
And foward bends his head,
The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,
And southward aye we fled.

And now there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold:
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.

And through the drifts the snowy clifts
Did send a dismal sheen:
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken—
The ice was all between.

The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!

At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God’s name.

It ate the food it ne’er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
The helmsman steered us through!

And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariner’s hollo!

In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
It perched for vespers nine;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
Glimmered the white moonshine.”

‘God save thee, ancient Mariner,
From the fiends that plague thee thus!—
Why look’st thou so?’—”With my crossbow
I shot the Albatross.”

Part II

“The sun now rose upon the right:
Out of the sea came he,
Still hid in mist, and on the left
Went down into the sea.

And the good south wind still blew behind,
But no sweet bird did follow,
Nor any day for food or play
Came to the mariners’ hollo!

And I had done a hellish thing,
And it would work ’em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.
Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay,
That made the breeze to blow!

Nor dim nor red, like God’s own head,
The glorious sun uprist:
Then all averred, I had killed the bird
That brought the fog and mist.
’Twas right, said they, such birds to slay,
That bring the fog and mist.

The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.

Down dropped the breeze, the sails dropped down,
’Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea!

All in a hot and copper sky,
The ****** sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the moon.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

The very deep did rot: O Christ!
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.

About, about, in reel and rout
The death-fires danced at night;
The water, like a witch’s oils,
Burnt green, and blue, and white.

And some in dreams assured were
Of the Spirit that plagued us so;
Nine fathom deep he had followed us
From the land of mist and snow.

And every tongue, through utter drought,
Was withered at the root;
We could not speak, no more than if
We had been choked with soot.

Ah! well-a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.”

Part III

“There passed a weary time. Each throat
Was parched, and glazed each eye.
A weary time! a weary time!
How glazed each weary eye—
When looking westward, I beheld
A something in the sky.

At first it seemed a little speck,
And then it seemed a mist;
It moved and moved, and took at last
A certain shape, I wist.

A speck, a mist, a shape, I wist!
And still it neared and neared:
As if it dodged a water-sprite,
It plunged and tacked and veered.

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,
We could nor laugh nor wail;
Through utter drought all dumb we stood!
I bit my arm, I ****** the blood,
And cried, A sail! a sail!

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,
Agape they heard me call:
Gramercy! they for joy did grin,
And all at once their breath drew in,
As they were drinking all.

See! see! (I cried) she tacks no more!
Hither to work us weal;
Without a breeze, without a tide,
She steadies with upright keel!

The western wave was all a-flame,
The day was well nigh done!
Almost upon the western wave
Rested the broad bright sun;
When that strange shape drove suddenly
Betwixt us and the sun.

And straight the sun was flecked with bars,
(Heaven’s Mother send us grace!)
As if through a dungeon-grate he peered
With broad and burning face.

Alas! (thought I, and my heart beat loud)
How fast she nears and nears!
Are those her sails that glance in the sun,
Like restless gossameres?

Are those her ribs through which the sun
Did peer, as through a grate?
And is that Woman all her crew?
Is that a Death? and are there two?
Is Death that Woman’s mate?

Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was as white as leprosy,
The Nightmare Life-in-Death was she,
Who thicks man’s blood with cold.

The naked hulk alongside came,
And the twain were casting dice;
‘The game is done! I’ve won! I’ve won!’
Quoth she, and whistles thrice.

The sun’s rim dips; the stars rush out:
At one stride comes the dark;
With far-heard whisper o’er the sea,
Off shot the spectre-bark.

We listened and looked sideways up!
Fear at my heart, as at a cup,
My life-blood seemed to sip!
The stars were dim, and thick the night,
The steersman’s face by his lamp gleamed white;
From the sails the dew did drip—
Till clomb above the eastern bar
The horned moon, with one bright star
Within the nether tip.

One after one, by the star-dogged moon,
Too quick for groan or sigh,
Each turned his face with a ghastly pang,
And cursed me with his eye.

Four times fifty living men,
(And I heard nor sigh nor groan)
With heavy thump, a lifeless lump,
They dropped down one by one.

The souls did from their bodies fly,—
They fled to bliss or woe!
And every soul it passed me by,
Like the whizz of my crossbow!”

Part IV

‘I fear thee, ancient Mariner!
I fear thy skinny hand!
And thou art long, and lank, and brown,
As is the ribbed sea-sand.

I fear thee and thy glittering eye,
And thy skinny hand, so brown.’—
“Fear not, fear not, thou Wedding-Guest!
This body dropped not down.

Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.

The many men, so beautiful!
And they all dead did lie;
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on; and so did I.

I looked upon the rotting sea,
And drew my eyes away;
I looked upon the rotting deck,
And there the dead men lay.

I looked to heaven, and tried to pray;
But or ever a prayer had gusht,
A wicked whisper came and made
My heart as dry as dust.

I closed my lids, and kept them close,
And the ***** like pulses beat;
Forthe sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky,
Lay like a load on my weary eye,
And the dead were at my feet.

The cold sweat melted from their limbs,
Nor rot nor reek did they:
The look with which they looked on me
Had never passed away.

An orphan’s curse would drag to hell
A spirit from on high;
But oh! more horrible than that
Is the curse in a dead man’s eye!
Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse,
And yet I could not die.

The moving moon went up the sky,
And no where did abide:
Softly she was going up,
And a star or two beside—

Her beams bemocked the sultry main,
Like April ****-frost spread;
But where the ship’s huge shadow lay,
The charmed water burnt alway
A still and awful red.

Beyond the shadow of the ship
I watched the water-snakes:
They moved in tracks of shining white,
And when they reared, the elfish light
Fell off in hoary flakes.

Within the shadow of the ship
I watched their rich attire:
Blue, glossy green, and velvet black,
They coiled and swam; and every track
Was a flash of golden fire.

O happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gushed from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware:
Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
And I blessed them unaware.

The selfsame moment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea.”

Part V

“Oh sleep! it is a gentle thing,
Beloved from pole to pole!
To Mary Queen the praise be given!
She sent the gentle sleep from heaven,
That slid into my soul.

The silly buckets on the deck,
That had so long remained,
I dreamt that they were filled with dew;
And when I awoke, it rained.

My lips were wet, my throat was cold,
My garments all were dank;
Sure I had drunken in my dreams,
And still my body drank.

I moved, and could not feel my limbs:
I was so light—almost
I thought that I had died in sleep,
And was a blessed ghost.

And soon I heard a roaring wind:
It did not come anear;
But with its sound it shook the sails,
That were so thin and sere.

The upper air burst into life!
And a hundred fire-flags sheen,
To and fro they were hurried about!
And to and fro, and in and out,
The wan stars danced between.

And the coming wind did roar more loud,
And the sails did sigh like sedge;
And the rain poured down from one black cloud;
The moon was at its edge.

The thick black cloud was cleft, and still
The moon was at its side:
Like waters shot from some high crag,
The lightning fell with never a jag,
A river steep and wide.

The loud wind never reached the ship,
Yet now the ship moved on!
Beneath the lightning and the moon
The dead men gave a groan.

They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose,
Nor spake, nor moved their eyes;
It had been strange, even in a dream,
To have seen those dead men rise.

The helmsman steered, the ship moved on;
Yet never a breeze up blew;
The mariners all ‘gan work the ropes,
Where they were wont to do;
They raised their limbs like lifeless tools—
We were a ghastly crew.

The body of my brother’s son
Stood by me, knee to knee:
The body and I pulled at one rope,
But he said nought to me.”

‘I fear thee, ancient Mariner!’
“Be calm, thou Wedding-Guest!
’Twas not those souls that fled in pain,
Which to their corses came again,
But a troop of spirits blest:

For when it dawned—they dropped their arms,
And clustered round the mast;
Sweet sounds rose slowly through their mouths,
And from their bodies passed.

Around, around, flew each sweet sound,
Then darted to the sun;
Slowly the sounds came back again,
Now mixed, now one by one.

Sometimes a-dropping from the sky
I heard the skylark sing;
Sometimes all little birds that are,
How they seemed to fill the sea and air
With their sweet jargoning!

And now ’twas like all instruments,
Now like a lonely flute;
And now it is an angel’s song,
That makes the heavens be mute.

It ceased; yet still the sails made on
A pleasant noise till noon,
A noise like of a hidden brook
In the leafy month of June,
That to the sleeping woods all night
Singeth a quiet tune.

Till noon we quietly sailed on,
Yet never a breeze did breathe;
Slowly and smoothly went the ship,
Moved onward from beneath.

Under the keel nine fathom deep,
From the land of mist and snow,
The spirit slid: and it was he
That made the ship to go.
The sails at noon left off their tune,
And the ship stood still also.

The sun, right up above the mast,
Had fixed her to the ocean:
But in a minute she ‘gan stir,
With a short uneasy motion—
Backwards and forwards half her length
With a short uneasy motion.

Then like a pawing horse let go,
She made a sudden bound:
It flung the blood into my head,
And I fell down in a swound.

How long in that same fit I lay,
I have not to declare;
But ere my living life returned,
I heard and in my soul discerned
Two voices in the air.

‘Is it he?’ quoth one, ‘Is this the man?
By him who died on cross,
With his cruel bow he laid full low
The harmless Albatross.

The spirit who bideth by himself
In the land of mist and snow,
He loved the bird that loved the man
Who shot him with his bow.’

The other was a softer voice,
As soft as honey-dew:
Quoth he, ‘The man hath penance done,
And penance more will do.’

Part VI

First Voice

But tell me, tell me! speak again,
Thy soft response renewing—
What makes that ship drive on so fast?
What is the ocean doing?

Second Voice

Still as a slave before his lord,
The ocean hath no blast;
His great bright eye most silently
Up to the moon is cast—

If he may know which way to go;
For she guides him smooth or grim.
See, brother, see! how graciously
She looketh down on him.

First Voice

But why drives on that ship so fast,
Without or wave or wind?

Second Voice

The air is cut away before,
And closes from behind.

Fly, brother, fly! more high, more high!
Or we shall be belated:
For slow and slow that ship will go,
When the Mariner’s trance is abated.

“I woke, and we were sailing on
As in a gentle weather:
’Twas night, calm night, the moon was high;
The dead men stood together.

All stood together on the deck,
For a charnel-dungeon fitter:
All fixed on me their stony eyes,
That in the moon did glitter.

The pang, the curse, with which they died,
Had never passed away:
I could not draw my eyes from theirs,
Nor turn them up to pray.

And now this spell was snapped: once more
I viewed the ocean green,
And looked far forth, yet little saw
Of what had else been seen—

Like one that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.

But soon there breathed a wind on me,
Nor sound nor motion made:
Its path was not upon the sea,
In ripple or in shade.

It raised my hair, it fanned my cheek
Like a meadow-gale of spring—
It mingled strangely with my fears,
Yet it felt like a welcoming.

Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship,
Yet she sailed softly too:
Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze—
On me alone it blew.

Oh! dream of joy! is this indeed
The lighthouse top I see?
Is this the hill? is this the kirk?
Is this mine own country?

We drifted o’er the harbour-bar,
And I with sobs did pray—
O let me be awake, my God!
Or let me sleep alway.

The harbour-bay was clear as glass,
So smoothly it was strewn!
And on the bay the moonlight lay,
And the shadow of the moon.

The rock shone bright, the kirk no less,
That stands above the rock:
The moonlight steeped in silentness
The steady weathercock.

And the bay was white with silent light,
Till rising from the same,
Full many shapes, that shadows were,
In crimson colours came.

A little distance from the prow
Those crimson shadows were:
I turned my eyes upon the deck—
Oh, Christ! what saw I there!

Each corse lay flat, lifeless and flat,
And, by the holy rood!
A man all light, a seraph-man,
On every corse there stood.

This seraph-band, each waved his hand:
It was a heavenly sight!
They stood as signals to the land,
Each one a lovely light;

This seraph-band, each waved his hand,
No voice did they impart—
No voice; but oh! the silence sank
Like music on my heart.

But soon I heard the dash of oars,
I heard the Pilot’s cheer;
My head was turned perforce away,
And I saw a boat appear.

The Pilot and the Pilot’s boy,
I heard them coming fast:
Dear Lord i
Patricia Arches Sep 2013
Choices

This ever blotting simple thing that makes up things

as small as a mouse but also as deadly as sin itself

A simple formula of cause and effect

An effect

A result

A consequence

No pretences

Or fences that guard our decisions

Keeps it safe for being just a choice

For it is no longer just a choice

It is not that simple, see there is a formula to remember

An economic study to this choice where c=e

because

For every cause there is an effect

For every cause there is an effect

For every cause there is an effect

Let it dwell in your mind and affect you

Because that is where it all begins

Let us open up your mind and there we will find that

Alongside that implanted thought are a plethora

Of more thoughts that are placed beside your dreams

Nestled in between your hopes, skilfully intertwined with your visions

There they all lay

Our mind is our drive that takes us down

A road that is long and winding

A highway down to our hands

Which eventually become steered by, picked up with strings ever so delicately like a puppet

Held by that one thought

Your actions are birthed from your thoughts

We see these to be choices

To study these choices would be economics, to understand them would be sympathy

To take a leader who steals from his country

Or a mom who abandons her child to keep herself alive

And view this as sad, as a cry for help?

How and why?

Oh no! We do not stop at just those two ghastly choices

For this is a study of many

Choices

Of things that have happened to determine what will and to save us from what has been

Let us open up this book

And flip each page to see what decrees and laws

Revolutions and words put down on paper

Have anything to do with where we stand today

For the choices of the past still linger here

Mixed in with the choices of the present

Creating this air that we breathe in and out every single day

We would be infuriated with rage as we scan through the pages of this book of choices

A chapter of injustice

A paragraph of cruelty

A statement of selfishness

A line of adultery

But, wait! Oh, let us stop on this

One

story

For this I do not even understand

See I have studied choices, and put them into many formulas

To see the effects and the causes of each

but this story is different

For it is not just one chapter

One statement

One line

It is the whole story and each is intricately woven within it

In fact, the book is titled for this one story

And to begin it would be to start off with a choice

By a God

To send his son

To die for men

Men whose choices we see throughout the whole book

Men whose choices are vile and selfish and ruthless

Sinful men

*****

And yet a God so Holy and pure still sends down his son in His likeness for these grimy men??

See, if we picture it. It is a white cloth, pure and clean not just dipped but completely submerged in dirt

Now that is not a choice that I would make

But it was made

A man so untainted and holy

Came down

To die for the sinner

Who stole from the helpless woman in the ally

Who murdered an innocent child in the womb

Who told a tiny white lie to his mom and dad and gave himself away to drugs and peer pressure

Who lusted after the world and what seemed good but really was death covered in make up whispering

in the promises lie after lie

To die for the sinner who is you

You

Jesus chose to die for you

On that cross, with his hands bound by nails and his feet the same

And with every last breath, last drop of blood and whip of the chain

he thought of you

and that is a choice that no study, no analyzation could ever make sense of

but it was done

it is done

is what he said for you as his arms were spread out wide

and all your choices

he negated the effects, and ultimately the effect of death

and formulated a solution of eternal life instead

for this one choice

changed all the rest

Now, think, think it through

Every choice you make

and every choice that was made is made brand new, infused with grace

Remember this for when there is a test the formula of cause and effect

Still stand true

but also remember Jesus who did what you had to do

for you may make many more flawed choices without a thought

Therefore go down on bended knees gaze at the cross

where stood the Father’s son

never a doubt that this choice for you was a wrong one

that any effect wouldn’t be worth it

you are worth any effect

you are an effect

of that one choice made on the hills of calvary

look up at the cross when your lewd effects force out the mistakes of your personal choices

then resurface that one choice made 2000 years before

bring it up amongst all the confusion and chaos

study it’s economic worth

hold it dear

smile at it even for

that senseless,

unexplainable,

brilliant,

grand,

intricate,

lovel­y,

merciful,

gracious,

holy,

divine,

choice

is all for you
Edward Coles Apr 2014
I found the reason for living,
In the beating of a drum.
Where everything has a purpose,
A place where everything belongs.

And, I’ve been living in the fallout
Of an atomic bomb,
There may be stumbles in my footprints,
But you’ve never steered me wrong.

So don’t you feel embarrassed
By your young suffering,
For what is learned in the morning,
By the evening, becomes instinct.

I’ve been dreaming of a culture,
I’ve been auctioning the sky,
As you draw me a new future;
Oh, it’s so beautiful, I cry.

So now I’m getting on that train,
To put some miles in between,
Who I appear as in the doorway,
And who I really mean to be.

And, I’ve been living in the fallout
Of an atomic bomb,
There may be stumbles in my footprints,
But you’ve never steered me wrong.
This is a song I wrote about a week ago. Probably poignant because it was about someone who the very next day, betrayed me.
Education Gives Luster to Motherland

Wise education, vital breath
Inspires an enchanting virtue;
She puts the Country in the lofty seat
Of endless glory, of dazzling glow,
And just as the gentle aura's puff
Do brighten the perfumed flower's hue:
So education with a wise, guiding hand,
A benefactress, exalts the human band.

Man's placid repose and earthly life
To education he dedicates
Because of her, art and science are born
Man; and as from the high mount above
The pure rivulet flows, undulates,
So education beyond measure
Gives the Country tranquility secure.

Where wise education raises a throne
Sprightly youth are invigorated,
Who with firm stand error they subdue
And with noble ideas are exalted;
It breaks immortality's neck,
Contemptible crime before it is halted:
It humbles barbarous nations
And it makes of savages champions.
And like the spring that nourishes
The plants, the bushes of the meads,
She goes on spilling her placid wealth,
And with kind eagerness she constantly feeds,
The river banks through which she slips,
And to beautiful nature all she concedes,
So whoever procures education wise
Until the height of honor may rise.

From her lips the waters crystalline
Gush forth without end, of divine virtue,
And prudent doctrines of her faith
The forces weak of evil subdue,
That break apart like the whitish waves
That lash upon the motionless shoreline:
And to climb the heavenly ways the people
Do learn with her noble example.

In the wretched human beings' breast
The living flame of good she lights
The hands of criminal fierce she ties,
And fill the faithful hearts with delights,
Which seeks her secrets beneficent
And in the love for the good her breast she incites,
And it's th' education noble and pure
Of human life the balsam sure.

And like a rock that rises with pride
In the middle of the turbulent waves
When hurricane and fierce Notus roar
She disregards their fury and raves,
That weary of the horror great
So frightened calmly off they stave;
Such is one by wise education steered
He holds the Country's reins unconquered.
His achievements on sapphires are engraved;
The Country pays him a thousand honors;
For in the noble ******* of her sons
Virtue transplanted luxuriant flow'rs;
And in the love of good e'er disposed
Will see the lords and governors
The noble people with loyal venture
Christian education always procure.

And like the golden sun of the morn
Whose rays resplendent shedding gold,
And like fair aurora of gold and red
She overspreads her colors bold;
Such true education proudly gives
The pleasure of virtue to young and old
And she enlightens out Motherland dear
As she offers endless glow and luster.
Old man, you surface seldom.
Then you come in with the tide's coming
When seas wash cold, foam-

Capped: white hair, white beard, far-flung,
A dragnet, rising, falling, as waves
Crest and trough. Miles long

Extend the radial sheaves
Of your spread hair, in which wrinkling skeins
Knotted, caught, survives

The old myth of orgins
Unimaginable. You float near
As kneeled ice-mountains

Of the north, to be steered clear
Of, not fathomed. All obscurity
Starts with a danger:

Your dangers are many. I
Cannot look much but your form suffers
Some strange injury

And seems to die: so vapors
Ravel to clearness on the dawn sea.
The muddy rumors

Of your burial move me
To half-believe: your reappearance
Proves rumors shallow,

For the archaic trenched lines
Of your grained face shed time in runnels:
Ages beat like rains

On the unbeaten channels
Of the ocean. Such sage humor and
Durance are whirlpools

To make away with the ground-
Work of the earth and the sky's ridgepole.
Waist down, you may wind

One labyrinthine tangle
To root deep among knuckles, shinbones,
Skulls. Inscrutable,

Below shoulders not once
Seen by any man who kept his head,
You defy questions;

You defy godhood.
I walk dry on your kingdom's border
Exiled to no good.

Your shelled bed I remember.
Father, this thick air is murderous.
I would breathe water.
Joel M Frye Jan 2015
I find a heart that sings eternal song,
inspiring dance from sore and stumbling feet:
a beacon which has never steered me wrong.

In days I felt that life strung me along
a greater Spirit surely found it meet
I'd find a heart that sings eternal song.

How fortunate to have a faithful throng
of friends whose voices never lie or cheat;
a beacon which has never steered me wrong.

Music leads and leaves a path so strong
my soul is stirred to marching to its beat.
I find a heart that sings eternal song.

Inspiration strikes me like a gong,
the ringing out which time cannot defeat;
a beacon which has never steered me wrong.

The fresh, green spring of life returns among
your words by turns so rough, so true, so sweet.
I find a heart that sings eternal song;
a beacon which has never steered me wrong.
To those who believe that free or blank verse is the only true expression of poetry:  To write concisely, simply, and meaningfully in formal poetry is one of the finest challenges of our craft and art.  Don't knock it until you've tried it.
This remembrance somehow still makest me guilty;
in every minute of it I feelest tangled, I feelest unfree.
I loathest this less genial side of captivity,
but still, 'tis ironically within my heart, and my torpid soul;
ah, I am afraid that it shall somehow becomest foul,
and I wantest very much, to endear my soul to liberty,
but so long as I hath consciously loved thee,
My confidence remaineth always too bold-
But I promisest that this shall becomest my last sonata,
Should thou ever findest, that thou desirest it to be;
whilst my incomplete song shall be our last cantata.
Ah, this series shall but never end,
Should I approachest and befriendest it,
but to confess, more I thinkest of it, the more my heart is pained;
No coldness shall it feelest, nor any beat of which, shall remaineth.

To thee whom I once loved, and now still do,
To thee whom my soul once gratefully honoured,
To thee whom I then endorsed, and magnified,
My heart, ah-my poor heart, is still restricted, and left within thee,
And amongst this dear spring's shuffling leaves, still blooms,
And shall bloomest forever with benevolence,
and even greater benevolence, as spring fliest and leavest
Just like thy sweet temper, and ever ostentatious laughter,
Thy voice and words, that are no longer here for me,
But still as clear, and authentic like a piece of gospel music, to me.

To thee whom I once loved, and now still do,
To thee whom my soul once gratefully honoured,
To thee whom I then endorsed, and magnified,
My pleasurable toils, and consummation still liest in thee-
as forever seemest that I shall trust thee, and thee only,
For the brief moment we had was but grand-and pleasant,
All the way more enigmatic, though frail, and exuberant
than I couldst perhaps rememberest,
But as I rememberest them, I shall also rememberest thee,
For those short nights are always fond and stellar to my memory,
As thou pronounced me lovely-and called myself thy lady,
As thou lingered about and placed thy sheepish fingers on my knee.
Ah, thee, whose heart is so kind and ever gently considerate,
From the moment thou stared at me I knew thou wert my unbinding fate.
And thy scent-o, thy manly scent, too calming but at times, poisonous;
Was more than any treasures I'd once withheld in my hand.

To thee whom I once loved, and now still do,
To thee whom my soul once gratefully honoured,
To thee whom I then endorsed, and magnified,
My enormity liest in thee, and so doth every pore
of my irrevocable, consolable sense;
Thou awakened my pride, thou livened up my tense,
Thou disturbed my mind, thou stole my conscience.
And with thy touch I was burning with bashfulness,
meanwhile my mind couldst stop not
ringing within me, unspeakable thoughts.
Ah, thee, thou made me shriek, thou slapped me awake;
And thou steered me away from any cruel dreams, and lies
these variegated worlds ought to make.
But still I hatest myself now, for leaving all of which unspoken,
Though plenty of time I had, whilst walking with thee, by the red ferns;
And every now and then, their branches ******* terrific sounds-
But not loud; benign and soft as heartfelt murmurs in our hearts.
And those dead leaves were just dead,
Over and under the gusty tears they had shed,
And their surfaces had been closed,
But as we stormed busily with laughter, along their dead roots,
All came back to life, and polished liveliness, and guiltless temperance.
Ah, thy image is still in my mind-for it is my ill mind's antidote,
With all the haste and loveliness and ardour as thou but ever hath,
Thou art loved, by me and my soul, more than I love myself and the earth,
Thou art more handsome even, than the juicy unearthed hearth yonder.
Ah thee, my very own lover and drowsy merriment at times,
Thou who keepest fading and growing-
and fading and growing over my head,
Thy image hauntest my sleep and drivest all of me crazy,
For justice is not justice, and death is not
death, as long as I am not with thee,
And I shall accept not-death as it is,
for I shall die never without thee,
For I am in thy love, as thine in mine,
And dreams shall no longer matterest,
when thy joys are mine-and fiercely mine,
I am blinded by urgent insecurity,
That occurest and tauntest and shadowest me
like a panoramic little ghost,
Massively shall it address me,
Painstakingly and, in the name of justice, ingloriously,
And shall them address my past and destroy me,
For I hath carelessly let thee fade from my life,
And enslavest and burdenest my very own history,
For in which now there is no longer thy name,
ike how mine not in thine.

To thee whom I once loved, and now still do,
To thee whom my soul once gratefully honoured,
To thee whom I then endorsed, and magnified,
Still thou art gentle as summer daffodils,
Thy image slanderest me, and its fangs couldst ****.
Thou owneth that sharpness that threatens me,
Corruptest and stiflest me, without any single stress,
And charming but evil like thy thirsty flesh.
Ah, still, I wishest to be good, and be not a temptress,
though all my love stories be bad, and
endest me and shuttest up in a dire mess.
I feelest empty, and for evermore t'is emptiness
shall proudly tormentest and torturest me,
Stenching me out like I am a little devil,
Who knowest but nothing of love nor goodwill,
I needst thee to make everything better, and shinier,
In my future life, as later-in my advanced years,
As death is getting near, for more and greater
shall my soul hath accordingly stayed here.

To thee whom I once loved, and now still do,
To thee whom my soul once gratefully honoured,
To thee whom I then endorsed, and magnified,
Thou art my summer butterfly and beetle,
I shall cloakest thee with sweet honey and sun,
And engulfest thee safely and warmly
under the angry sickly moon.
I am thankful for thee still, for thou hath changed me,
For thou made me see, and opened my flawed eyes
Thou enabled me to witness the real world;
But everything is still, at times, beyond my fancy,
For they keepest moving and stayest never still,
Sometimes I am, like I used to be, astonished
at the gust of things, and the way they grossly turned
Their malice made my heart wrenched, and my stomach churned
What I seest oftentimes weariest my *****, and disruptest my glee
And still I shall convincest myself, that I but needst thee with me,
Thee to for evermore be my all-day guide and candlelight,
Thee who art so understanding, and everything lovable, to my sight.

To thee whom I once loved, and now still do,
To thee whom my soul once gratefully honoured,
To thee whom I then endorsed, and magnified,
If thou wert a needle then I'd be thy thread,
If thy rain wert dry then I'd makest it wet.
But needst not thou worry about my rain;
For 'tis all enduring and canst bear
even the greatest, most cynical pain.
Ah, and thus I'd be thy umbrella,
Thou, whose abode in my heart
is more superfluous, and graceful-
than my random, fictitious nirvana;
Oh, thee, thou art my lost grace,
And everyone who is not thee-
I keepest calling them by thy name,
How crazy-ah, I am, just like now I am, about thee!
Ah, thou art my air, my sigh, and my comfortable relief,
And in my poetry thou art worth all my sonnets, my charm,
and forever inadequate, affection!
And only in thy eyes I find my dear, effectual temptations,
As under the hungered moonlight by the infuriated sea,
Who standeth strenuously by the peering strand of couples,
Thou evokest within me dangerous eves, and morns of madness,
Thou makest me find my irked melody, and vexed sonnet,
Thou made, even briefly-my latent days gracious,
Thou made me feelest glad and undistant and precious.
Thou art a saint, thou art a saint, though thy being a human
intervenest thee and prohibitest thee from being so;
ah, and whoever thinkest so is worthy of my regrets,
and the worst tactfulness of my weary wrath;
For thou art far precious, more than any trace
of silverness, or even true goldness,
Thou art my holiest source of joy,
and most healing pond of tears;
Thou art my wealth, ****** trust,
and my only sober redemption;
thou art my conscience, pride, and lost self;
Thou art indeed, my eternally irredeemable satisfaction.

To thee whom I once loved, and now still do,
To thee whom my soul once gratefully honoured,
To thee whom I then endorsed, and magnified,
I adorest thee only-my prince, my hero, my pristine knight;
Ah, thee, thou art perfect to my belief and my sight,
Thou who art deserving of all my breath and my poetry;
Thou who understandest what kindness is, and desires are,
Thou who made me seest farther but not too far.
Thou who art an angel to me-a fair, fair angel,
Thou who art beguiling as tasteful tides
among the sea-my courteous summer sea,
Thou who art even more human than
our fellow living souls themselves;
Sometimes I think thou art courage itself-
as thou art even braver than it, the latter, is!
Thou art the sole ripe fruit of my soul,
And my poetic imagination, and due thought;
Thou art the naked notes of my sonata,
And the naughty lyrics of my sonnet,
Thou art everything to nothingness,
As how nothingness deemest thee everything;
Thou makest them shy, and dutifully-
and outstandingly, changest their minds;
Thou art a handsome one to everything,
Just as how everything respectest, and adore thee.

To thee whom I once loved, and now still do,
To thee whom my soul once gratefully honoured,
To thee whom I then endorsed, and magnified,
By whose presence I was delighted, as well my breath-dignified,
Ah, my love, now helpest me define what love itself is;
For I assumest it is more than fits of hysteria, and sweet kisses
Look, now, and dream that if death is not really death
Than what is it aside from unseen rays of breath?
For love is, I thinkest, more handsome than it doth lookest,
For in love flowest blood, and sacrifice, and fate that hearts adorest
But desiccated and mocked as it is, by its very own lovers
That its sweetness hath now turned dark, and far bitter;
Full of hesitations engulfed in the best ways they could muster;
O, my love, like the round-leafed dandellions outside,
I shall glancest and swimest and delvest into thy soul;
I shall bearest and detainest and imprisonest thee in my mind,
But verily shall I care for thee,
ah, and thus I shall become thy everything!
Let me, once more, become obstinate-but delirious in thy arms;
let me my very prince-oh, my very, very own prince!
Doth thou knowest not that I am misguided,
and awfully derogated, without thee!
Ah, thee! My very, very own thee!
Comest back to me, o my sweet,
And let me be painted in thy charms,
o thee, whom I hath so tearfully,
and blushingly missed, ever since!

To thee whom I once loved, and now still do,
To thee whom my soul once gratefully honoured,
To thee whom I then endorsed, and magnified,
I loveth thee adorably, and am fond of thee admirably,
so frequent not outside when all is dark and yon sky is red,
For I hatest justification, and its possibly hidden wrath;
I hatest judging what is to happen when our hearts hath met,
but how canst I ever knowest-when thou choosest to remaineth mute?
Then tearest my heart, and keepest my mouth shut
O thee, should this discomfort ever happenest again;
Please instead slayest me, slaughterest me, and consumest me-
And lastly let me wander around the earth as a ghost.
Let me be all ghastly, deadly, and but penniless;
Let me be breathless, poor, imbecile, and lost-
For in utter death there is only poverty,
And poverty ever after-as no delicacy nor taste,
But I shall still dreamest as though my deadness is not death,
for I am alone; for I am all cursed, without thee.

To thee whom I once loved, and now still do,
To thee whom my soul once gratefully cherished,
To thee whom I endorsed, and magnified,
My heart, ah-my poor heart, is still left within thee,
Just how weepest shall the leafless autumn tree,
Waiting for its lost offspring to return,
and be liberated from its pious mourns;
And as I hearest their shaky, infantile chorus,
I shall but picturest thee again, thus;
Thy cordial left palm entwined in my hand,
Strolling with me about the leafy garden.
A joyed maiden having found her dream man,
a loving man swamped deeply with his love, for his loyal maiden.
Amitav Radiance Jun 2015
Ships won’t be anchored forever
Rusted anchor will break free
Its weight will help sink deeper
With a loud clunk, noise will dissipate
The ship will set sail once again
No weight is heavy enough to overcome
Steered away to distant land
Searching for newer shores and destinations
Away from the land of constraint
Ship will sail safely through deeper waters
Navigating through inclement weather
Forces of nature will test its strength
For the ship shall find the happy shores again
Big Virge Mar 2018
Ya Know ....
  
I'm Beginning To Think The Truth Is ...
A LOT of Folks Are ... STUPID ... !!!  
    
You Can Tell By The Way They're Moving ...  
And Who They Choose To ... Move With ...  
    
It's CLEAR Some NEED Improvements ...  
Because They Deal In Looseness .............................. !!!!!  
    
Like CLAIMING Their ... " Religion " ...  
DEFINES How They Be Living ... ?  
    
Here's What I Mean You DON'T EAT PIG ...
Because It's UNCLEAN Is Your Religions' Theme ...  
    
BUT One Night You're At Home ...  
And Your Hunger Says ...  
    
"Yo it's time for some food !"  
    
So Do You Start To Cook ... ???  
NO You Go To The Phonebook ...  
INSTEAD And Have A Look ...  
For Something You Can Order ...  
    
An Option CLEARLY shorter ... !!!  
Than Cooking For ... Yourself ...  
    
So You Then GET A FEVER ...    
To Order Up ... Some Pizza ... !!!  
    
Ya' Hunger Says ... " Oh well " ...  
    
You Order Up ... " A VEGGIE " ...  
I Guess Cos' That Is ... " Healthy " ... ?!?  
    
ONLY To FIND Later ... That Night ...  
That Something MEATY Was Inside ... !!!  
    
Because THAT Night You Spent The Time ...  
With The Toilet By Your Side ... !!!!!!!  
    
It Now Becomes CLEAR ...  
STUPIDITY Steered Your *** To A Place ...  
Where It Had To ................................ DISPLACE ...... !!!!!!!!!!  
    
WHATEVER You Ate From That .... " Takeaway " .... ?!?  
    
Next Day When You Check ...  
The Pizza Then Said .... !!!?!!!
    
"If you didn't want meat,  
why did you eat me, without double checking !  
Why now are you stressing ?  
You were stupid to believe that you'd really receive,  
what we say we'll provide. The sales what rules our vibe !  
If you truly were, all that concerned about swine being a part  
of food you ingest, that makes you **** !  
You'd of got off your ****, and cooked at home,  
so that you'd of known, what it was you had,  
and wouldn't of eaten, a piece of ham !"  
    
You'd of Marked Your Own Card ...    
And Then Wouldn't Try To BLAME ... ?!?  
To .... "Cover Up Your SHAME" ... !!!  
    
It Seems Your Brain Is ... LAME ... !!!  
Cos' STUPIDITY Holds It's REINS ... !!!  
    
Your ANGER Is A FARCE ... !!!!!  
You People Make Me Laugh ...    
    
Actually ... YOU DON'T ... !!!!!!!  
Cos' STUPIDITY ROAMS ...................................
RIGHT THROUGH Your Bones ...  
And Into Zones Where It SHOULD NOT GO ... !!!!!  
    
It Seems That ALL YOUR Bleating ....    
DEFINES Much Like Your ... Leanings ...  
    
Your Faith To Be A SHAM ...    
And Quite Stupid At That ... !!!  

Just Like Wearing ... " LIONS " ... ?!?  
As If They Are ... YOUR TRIDENT ... !?!  
When NOT ONE Lion Roams ?  
In The Place That You Call ... " Home " ... !!!
    
Isn't That Something You STOLE .... ?!?  
From AFRICAN ... Time Zones ... !?!  
    
Somebody's CLEARLY LYING ... !!!!!  
And DOESN'T Come From ZION ... !!!  
    
I Clearly Am STUPID ...
To See THAT As FOOLISH ... !!!  
And PROOF of POOR Schooling ...
That Is Mind POLLUTING ... !!!  
    
Who'd They Think They're ...
..... " Fooling " ...... ???  

A GREAT MANY People ...
Like Those Under Steeples ... !!!  
CONFESSING Their SINS ... !!!  
Because of BAD THINGS ...  
That They Have Been Doing ...  
    
It's Church They Are USING ....    
To ACT As Their CLEANSER ...  
These STUPID PRETENDERS ... !!!!!  
    
USING Religion ...
To Give Themselves Visions ...  
of AGAIN Being ... PURE ... ?!!!!!?  
    
That's STUPID ... Fa' SURE ... !!!!!!  
    
A Leopard DOES NOT Change His Spots ... !!!  
    
He's A LEOPARD ... FOREVER ... !!!!!  
YES Humans Can BETTER ...    
Themselves ... YES IT's True ...    

But NOT In A Morning ... !!!  
That's STUPIDITY ... Calling ... !!!!!  
    
Is It Stupid To Say These Things Nowadays ... ?!?  
NOT IN My View But MANY Would Choose ...  
    
To Say .....  
    
" It is true, cos expression moves, and causes issues,  
and if you're not careful, may turn and bite you !"    
    
Man ... FEAR of YOUR TRUTH ...  
Seems Like ... FEARING YOU ... ?!!!?  
    
Something I View ...  
As YES A ... STUPID MOVE ... !!!!!  
    
Stupidity REIGNS ...  
When FEAR Takes The Strain ... !!!!!  

That's Now What's IMPRINTED .....  
And Runs Through My Veins ... !!!!!!!  
    
I Try To Use THINKING ...  
To Avoid ... STUPID TRAINS ... !!!  
    
Cos' Thought OVERPOWERS STUPIDITY's Power ... !!!  
    
As Does DISCIPLINE ...
Which Is Where I Begin ...  
    
NO RELIGION ... Within ... !!!  
    
Just Faith In Reflection ...  
And Thought FILLED Selections ... !!!  
On Life And It's LESSONS ... !!!  
To Give Me ... "PROTECTION" ...  
Against The INFECTIONS ... !!!!!  
    
STUPIDITY Spreads In UNDISCIPLINED Heads ...  
It's CLEAR TO ME Now That FOOLS Run Most Towns ... !!!!!  
    
And My Thinking That THOUGHT ...  
In People ... Runs FLUID ... !!!!!!  
    
Gives Me LIVING PROOF ...  
That I'm Being ........  
    
..... " STUPID " .....
Nowadays, people expose things about themselves on social media, without truly realising the extent of what they are showing sometimes ....
the blonde poet Aug 2015
Now he's got a drinking problem,
He's steered off course.
He's heading to the bottom
on a Smirnoff course.
By the way I don't drink, this is just a really cool rhyme scheme and pun that I thought of and couldn't miss the opportunity to post it!
amanda cooper Oct 2011
everything was so soft. everything was so calm.
well, except our hearts. they were racing.
and it was awkward, but it was sweet. i spent my time biting my lip so i wouldn't touch them against yours. you spent your time taking pictures, to keep your fingers busy. on the camera, off my hair. and it brought us to our knees, almost. the weight of everything.
why me? of all people, why give me her present? i asked but never got an answer. but it sat by my bedside every night.
we were desperate lovers, desperate for change. desperate for some resemblances of the past, but rewritten.
older, even. more mature.
and well, the heat of the summer lit that flame in our hearts, and the rest of us. and you may have steered that ship, but my hands were on the wheel.
but eventually my hands gripped razors instead of bedsheets. and your kisses weren't sweet anymore. instead of burying your hands in my hair, they were buried in yours - in grief. we both broke, from the weight of the world. i told you we'd never be Atlas and you begged to try anyway.
why, though? you knew i was broken, you knew you were too. with cracks in the cornerstone, why did you keep building?
you sent that canary into a coal mine and you cried when it was dead.
just bury it. you always were so good at keeping a straight face; it won your poker game every time.
just smoke another one, you know you'd want to. why didn't you?
i don't understand why you were so broken. let alone why i was.
and when i asked, you could only say,
"it just all ended so...
abruptly."
10/24/11.
Christy Gee Sep 2011
“Just this once,” you said.
I couldn’t wrap it around my head.
Your promise replayed and replayed:
“Those were my high school days
I’m done now
I’ll show you how
I’ll show you my grades
I promise you A’s
Oncology, psychology, Tour de France,
I wasted it last year, so now’s my chance.
I ****** up so badly
I love you so madly
I’ll prove to the world, to myself, and to you,
That with every vow I take I know I’ll come through.”

If you were so set on your integrity,
Why did you become the opposite of what you said you’d be?
Why did you say “I’ll be over at ten,”
Wait for my worried text at twelve, to which you said:
“Oh about that…yeah um, I hoped you’d forget.”

My list of why’s will always haunt me.
Why was everything you said so taunting?
Why did you always threaten to break up,
When all I needed was for you to hurry up?
30 minutes late? No worries, no big deal,
But after four hours of course I’d lose my chill.
I felt like an idiot, buns fused to the couch.
As time passed by, I became a ****** grouch.
You were out with your friends, unconcerned about me
Or the fact that you said you would be here at three.
Well, three became four, then five, six, and seven,
And you’d leave me to return to your friends at eleven.
“You’re tired of waiting for me? Keep yourself busy.
Use your creativity.
I won’t make time for you, that’s how it will be,
This is who I am, I dgaf, take me or leave.
'Good morning' and 'goodnight' are utter *******.
That’s not you and me, that’s Judy and Cliff.
You’re too **** sensitive, toughen up, be a man.”
But how can I when you always told me I can’t?

You were my *******, marijuana,
The more you’d say go away the more I’d want ya.
I got hooked to the feeling of having you around,
And now that you’re gone I always feel down.
But I slap my mouth shut before I can say,
“I miss you so dearly, oh please won’t you stay?!”
I’m an ex-addict, every time I want you back,
I remind myself you’re deceiving as a pipe full of crack.
I know you were bad to me,
but horribly addicting.


“Shut up now before I really get angry.
And when I get mad, I’m scary, trust me.”
I always shut up, I never persisted,
Because to every concern I expressed, you resisted.
I allowed you to threaten me, scared to see when
I awoke your dormant beast from within.


You had purple pants that I didn’t like,
I’d playfully say, “Don’t wear those tonight!”
One day in line at the DMV,
you reminded me my favorite shoes “are ******* disgusting.”
You always made sure to insult my attire,
But believe it or not, I’ve been told I inspire.
“Look at my two-hundred dollar French jeans,
How ****, son, I’m so ******* clean.
Now look at you in your thrift store outfit,
Compared to great me, humble you look like ****.”

I simultaneously felt like your mother
and your punching bag of a little brother.


Your words were the cookies to my Teflon-free brain,
I tried to unstick them; they drove me insane.
Hit after hit, after hit, after hit,
Your words were so spiteful,
Of my self I felt jipped.

I was the naïve fish that bit your line,
Of “You know I’m a good guy, so just stop crying.”
My tears would dry and I would feel fine,
But there was always an inkling in the back of my mind:
"This isn’t right, I don’t deserve this treatment,
I love him, I do, so why do I feel such resentment?"

You’d continue to reel me in with your words,
“I love you so much, Christy, of that I’m sure.
I love you more now than ever before.”

...


So tell me, sir, why, when I entered the door,
Just a few days after July twenty-fourth,
I opened my laptop to see on the internet
“Lu Rivas is single,”a few likes, and a comment?

Was this a joke? It had to be.
Considering just days before, you cried to me.
You cried to me? Or did you lie to me?
Which you did you expect me to believe?
The one who said “I used to do drugs,
Because of my horrible cheating first love,
I used to smoke ****
‘cause I couldn’t stand me.”
Or the one who got high two hours after,
Saying sobriety was a long-gone chapter?

The one who said “I’m gonna marry you one day,”
Or the one who said “This love **** is so ******* gay”?

The one who said, “We have all summer to hang,”
Or the one who said “Summer’s Wahb time, get over me, dang.”

The one who said “I’m gonna start training,
Doing well in school, cuddle you when it’s raining,”
Or the one who dropped classes, gave up himself,
To be with his friends and no one else?


“I love you because you’re so different”
Became “You’re too weird, you’re not liked by my friends.”

Were you the Lu who said “I’m in love with you,”
Or the one who said “That’s not true,
I have no feelings for you.”

It wasn't the fact that you liked to ****,
It was the fact that your every promise you broke.

I couldn’t believe a word you said,
My brain in a dizzied daze in my head,
Because the opposite would be acted upon;
My brain felt dead;
Constantly translating contradictory definitions
Apparently our dictionaries had opposing renditions.


“I keep you around because you care for me genuinely”
Became “Let me breathe, I don’t want you around me!
I don’t give a **** about you or your interests,
And I haven’t since day one, please understand this.”


Laziness, impatience, irresponsibility,
Every one of your problems was my liability.


You might be doing well now; I’ve no way of knowing,
But I see that your happiness keeps your smile still glowing.
Just thinking about your smile made mine grow, too.
But to you, it was an inconvenience to share a laugh or two.

I never changed who I was,
Or pleased my friends’ desires
While you slowly wanted to get higher and higher.
I wasn’t enough anymore,
Just a hassle and a bore.

I knew I was being naïve and immature,
So shame on me for believing your now-transparent words.
You were so authentic, your words were opaque.
Now I see right through them, all of them; fake.
Is fake too harsh of a word to use?
I don’t think so, I’m the one you used.
I gave you what you wanted, and at first, you did too.
But as time progressed, we weren’t one, but two.

Oh, and I must have forgotten to mention,
How you never really got over that girlfriend.
You used me to fill in the hole that she left,
Until you realized that I wasn’t enough.
I wasn’t a *****, didn’t boss you around,
She barked at you constantly and you didn’t make a sound.
But you left me the week after
You started to reconnect with her.
Just a coincidence? I highly doubt it.
You missed the girl who made you her *****.
Might I even bring up how she cheated on you,
To make you stay, should I have been unfaithful, too?

I lost you to popularity, to the glamour of high school,
You hang on by the skin of your teeth to stay cool.
Partying, not caring, big ticket items.
Days I heard stories of, I knew you weren’t over them.
"Those were the days, God that was great,
Green crack, ecstasy, alcohol poisoning."

You steered clear of the man I fell in love with,
And returned to the 16-year-old kid I felt no connection with.

"I’m gonna go back now, return to my glory,
If I do something to hurt you, I won’t say I'm sorry.
I know I was good when I met you,
But that person I was is now gone,
The clean me was so ******* boring
I will not change me for anyone.
I lost who I was, but now I am found,
Go find someone else, go fetch a rebound."


So if you hate me now, I couldn’t care less,
Just remind yourself that I gave you my best.
Family parties meant I thought you were real,
I wouldn’t have taken you if I knew you’d repeal.

You used to be so bright, so effervescent
As time went on you seemed so disconnected.
Impatient and harsh, rude and abrasive,
I couldn’t please you.
Your “love” was evasive.

You steered so clear of the you that I met,
Not leaving you is my biggest regret.
I wish we could turn the clock back and switch places,
So you could see how hard it is to feel sad with happy faces.

Because the eggs I made you were always cooked wrong,
Understanding things took me too long,
My clothes were too cheap,
My face was too different,
I wasn’t your happiness,
I was your ailment.

I need liberation from feeling so down,
To remove this heartache I wear as a crown.
But I’ll try to remove this gilded hat,
'cause you dumped me on Facebook,
And that is that.
But some good Triton-god had ruth, and bare
The boy’s drowned body back to Grecian land,
And mermaids combed his dank and dripping hair
And smoothed his brow, and loosed his clenching hand;
Some brought sweet spices from far Araby,
And others bade the halcyon sing her softest lullaby.

And when he neared his old Athenian home,
A mighty billow rose up suddenly
Upon whose oily back the clotted foam
Lay diapered in some strange fantasy,
And clasping him unto its glassy breast
Swept landward, like a white-maned steed upon a venturous quest!

Now where Colonos leans unto the sea
There lies a long and level stretch of lawn;
The rabbit knows it, and the mountain bee
For it deserts Hymettus, and the Faun
Is not afraid, for never through the day
Comes a cry ruder than the shout of shepherd lads at play.

But often from the thorny labyrinth
And tangled branches of the circling wood
The stealthy hunter sees young Hyacinth
Hurling the polished disk, and draws his hood
Over his guilty gaze, and creeps away,
Nor dares to wind his horn, or—else at the first break of day

The Dryads come and throw the leathern ball
Along the reedy shore, and circumvent
Some goat-eared Pan to be their seneschal
For fear of bold Poseidon’s ravishment,
And loose their girdles, with shy timorous eyes,
Lest from the surf his azure arms and purple beard should rise.

On this side and on that a rocky cave,
Hung with the yellow-belled laburnum, stands
Smooth is the beach, save where some ebbing wave
Leaves its faint outline etched upon the sands,
As though it feared to be too soon forgot
By the green rush, its playfellow,—and yet, it is a spot

So small, that the inconstant butterfly
Could steal the hoarded money from each flower
Ere it was noon, and still not satisfy
Its over-greedy love,—within an hour
A sailor boy, were he but rude enow
To land and pluck a garland for his galley’s painted prow,

Would almost leave the little meadow bare,
For it knows nothing of great pageantry,
Only a few narcissi here and there
Stand separate in sweet austerity,
Dotting the unmown grass with silver stars,
And here and there a daffodil waves tiny scimitars.

Hither the billow brought him, and was glad
Of such dear servitude, and where the land
Was ****** of all waters laid the lad
Upon the golden margent of the strand,
And like a lingering lover oft returned
To kiss those pallid limbs which once with intense fire burned,

Ere the wet seas had quenched that holocaust,
That self-fed flame, that passionate lustihead,
Ere grisly death with chill and nipping frost
Had withered up those lilies white and red
Which, while the boy would through the forest range,
Answered each other in a sweet antiphonal counter-change.

And when at dawn the wood-nymphs, hand-in-hand,
Threaded the bosky dell, their satyr spied
The boy’s pale body stretched upon the sand,
And feared Poseidon’s treachery, and cried,
And like bright sunbeams flitting through a glade
Each startled Dryad sought some safe and leafy ambuscade.

Save one white girl, who deemed it would not be
So dread a thing to feel a sea-god’s arms
Crushing her ******* in amorous tyranny,
And longed to listen to those subtle charms
Insidious lovers weave when they would win
Some fenced fortress, and stole back again, nor thought it sin

To yield her treasure unto one so fair,
And lay beside him, thirsty with love’s drouth,
Called him soft names, played with his tangled hair,
And with hot lips made havoc of his mouth
Afraid he might not wake, and then afraid
Lest he might wake too soon, fled back, and then, fond renegade,

Returned to fresh assault, and all day long
Sat at his side, and laughed at her new toy,
And held his hand, and sang her sweetest song,
Then frowned to see how froward was the boy
Who would not with her maidenhood entwine,
Nor knew that three days since his eyes had looked on Proserpine;

Nor knew what sacrilege his lips had done,
But said, ‘He will awake, I know him well,
He will awake at evening when the sun
Hangs his red shield on Corinth’s citadel;
This sleep is but a cruel treachery
To make me love him more, and in some cavern of the sea

Deeper than ever falls the fisher’s line
Already a huge Triton blows his horn,
And weaves a garland from the crystalline
And drifting ocean-tendrils to adorn
The emerald pillars of our bridal bed,
For sphered in foaming silver, and with coral crowned head,

We two will sit upon a throne of pearl,
And a blue wave will be our canopy,
And at our feet the water-snakes will curl
In all their amethystine panoply
Of diamonded mail, and we will mark
The mullets swimming by the mast of some storm-foundered bark,

Vermilion-finned with eyes of bossy gold
Like flakes of crimson light, and the great deep
His glassy-portaled chamber will unfold,
And we will see the painted dolphins sleep
Cradled by murmuring halcyons on the rocks
Where Proteus in quaint suit of green pastures his monstrous
flocks.

And tremulous opal-hued anemones
Will wave their purple fringes where we tread
Upon the mirrored floor, and argosies
Of fishes flecked with tawny scales will thread
The drifting cordage of the shattered wreck,
And honey-coloured amber beads our twining limbs will deck.’

But when that baffled Lord of War the Sun
With gaudy pennon flying passed away
Into his brazen House, and one by one
The little yellow stars began to stray
Across the field of heaven, ah! then indeed
She feared his lips upon her lips would never care to feed,

And cried, ‘Awake, already the pale moon
Washes the trees with silver, and the wave
Creeps grey and chilly up this sandy dune,
The croaking frogs are out, and from the cave
The nightjar shrieks, the fluttering bats repass,
And the brown stoat with hollow flanks creeps through the dusky
grass.

Nay, though thou art a god, be not so coy,
For in yon stream there is a little reed
That often whispers how a lovely boy
Lay with her once upon a grassy mead,
Who when his cruel pleasure he had done
Spread wings of rustling gold and soared aloft into the sun.

Be not so coy, the laurel trembles still
With great Apollo’s kisses, and the fir
Whose clustering sisters fringe the seaward hill
Hath many a tale of that bold ravisher
Whom men call Boreas, and I have seen
The mocking eyes of Hermes through the poplar’s silvery sheen.

Even the jealous Naiads call me fair,
And every morn a young and ruddy swain
Woos me with apples and with locks of hair,
And seeks to soothe my virginal disdain
By all the gifts the gentle wood-nymphs love;
But yesterday he brought to me an iris-plumaged dove

With little crimson feet, which with its store
Of seven spotted eggs the cruel lad
Had stolen from the lofty sycamore
At daybreak, when her amorous comrade had
Flown off in search of berried juniper
Which most they love; the fretful wasp, that earliest vintager

Of the blue grapes, hath not persistency
So constant as this simple shepherd-boy
For my poor lips, his joyous purity
And laughing sunny eyes might well decoy
A Dryad from her oath to Artemis;
For very beautiful is he, his mouth was made to kiss;

His argent forehead, like a rising moon
Over the dusky hills of meeting brows,
Is crescent shaped, the hot and Tyrian noon
Leads from the myrtle-grove no goodlier spouse
For Cytheraea, the first silky down
Fringes his blushing cheeks, and his young limbs are strong and
brown;

And he is rich, and fat and fleecy herds
Of bleating sheep upon his meadows lie,
And many an earthen bowl of yellow curds
Is in his homestead for the thievish fly
To swim and drown in, the pink clover mead
Keeps its sweet store for him, and he can pipe on oaten reed.

And yet I love him not; it was for thee
I kept my love; I knew that thou would’st come
To rid me of this pallid chastity,
Thou fairest flower of the flowerless foam
Of all the wide AEgean, brightest star
Of ocean’s azure heavens where the mirrored planets are!

I knew that thou would’st come, for when at first
The dry wood burgeoned, and the sap of spring
Swelled in my green and tender bark or burst
To myriad multitudinous blossoming
Which mocked the midnight with its mimic moons
That did not dread the dawn, and first the thrushes’ rapturous
tunes

Startled the squirrel from its granary,
And cuckoo flowers fringed the narrow lane,
Through my young leaves a sensuous ecstasy
Crept like new wine, and every mossy vein
Throbbed with the fitful pulse of amorous blood,
And the wild winds of passion shook my slim stem’s maidenhood.

The trooping fawns at evening came and laid
Their cool black noses on my lowest boughs,
And on my topmost branch the blackbird made
A little nest of grasses for his spouse,
And now and then a twittering wren would light
On a thin twig which hardly bare the weight of such delight.

I was the Attic shepherd’s trysting place,
Beneath my shadow Amaryllis lay,
And round my trunk would laughing Daphnis chase
The timorous girl, till tired out with play
She felt his hot breath stir her tangled hair,
And turned, and looked, and fled no more from such delightful
snare.

Then come away unto my ambuscade
Where clustering woodbine weaves a canopy
For amorous pleasaunce, and the rustling shade
Of Paphian myrtles seems to sanctify
The dearest rites of love; there in the cool
And green recesses of its farthest depth there is pool,

The ouzel’s haunt, the wild bee’s pasturage,
For round its rim great creamy lilies float
Through their flat leaves in verdant anchorage,
Each cup a white-sailed golden-laden boat
Steered by a dragon-fly,—be not afraid
To leave this wan and wave-kissed shore, surely the place was made

For lovers such as we; the Cyprian Queen,
One arm around her boyish paramour,
Strays often there at eve, and I have seen
The moon strip off her misty vestiture
For young Endymion’s eyes; be not afraid,
The panther feet of Dian never tread that secret glade.

Nay if thou will’st, back to the beating brine,
Back to the boisterous billow let us go,
And walk all day beneath the hyaline
Huge vault of Neptune’s watery portico,
And watch the purple monsters of the deep
Sport in ungainly play, and from his lair keen Xiphias leap.

For if my mistress find me lying here
She will not ruth or gentle pity show,
But lay her boar-spear down, and with austere
Relentless fingers string the cornel bow,
And draw the feathered notch against her breast,
And loose the arched cord; aye, even now upon the quest

I hear her hurrying feet,—awake, awake,
Thou laggard in love’s battle! once at least
Let me drink deep of passion’s wine, and slake
My parched being with the nectarous feast
Which even gods affect!  O come, Love, come,
Still we have time to reach the cavern of thine azure home.’

Scarce had she spoken when the shuddering trees
Shook, and the leaves divided, and the air
Grew conscious of a god, and the grey seas
Crawled backward, and a long and dismal blare
Blew from some tasselled horn, a sleuth-hound bayed,
And like a flame a barbed reed flew whizzing down the glade.

And where the little flowers of her breast
Just brake into their milky blossoming,
This murderous paramour, this unbidden guest,
Pierced and struck deep in horrid chambering,
And ploughed a ****** furrow with its dart,
And dug a long red road, and cleft with winged death her heart.

Sobbing her life out with a bitter cry
On the boy’s body fell the Dryad maid,
Sobbing for incomplete virginity,
And raptures unenjoyed, and pleasures dead,
And all the pain of things unsatisfied,
And the bright drops of crimson youth crept down her throbbing
side.

Ah! pitiful it was to hear her moan,
And very pitiful to see her die
Ere she had yielded up her sweets, or known
The joy of passion, that dread mystery
Which not to know is not to live at all,
And yet to know is to be held in death’s most deadly thrall.

But as it hapt the Queen of Cythere,
Who with Adonis all night long had lain
Within some shepherd’s hut in Arcady,
On team of silver doves and gilded wain
Was journeying Paphos-ward, high up afar
From mortal ken between the mountains and the morning star,

And when low down she spied the hapless pair,
And heard the Oread’s faint despairing cry,
Whose cadence seemed to play upon the air
As though it were a viol, hastily
She bade her pigeons fold each straining plume,
And dropt to earth, and reached the strand, and saw their dolorous
doom.

For as a gardener turning back his head
To catch the last notes of the linnet, mows
With careless scythe too near some flower bed,
And cuts the thorny pillar of the rose,
And with the flower’s loosened loneliness
Strews the brown mould; or as some shepherd lad in wantonness

Driving his little flock along the mead
Treads down two daffodils, which side by aide
Have lured the lady-bird with yellow brede
And made the gaudy moth forget its pride,
Treads down their brimming golden chalices
Under light feet which were not made for such rude ravages;

Or as a schoolboy tired of his book
Flings himself down upon the reedy grass
And plucks two water-lilies from the brook,
And for a time forgets the hour glass,
Then wearies of their sweets, and goes his way,
And lets the hot sun **** them, even go these lovers lay.

And Venus cried, ‘It is dread Artemis
Whose bitter hand hath wrought this cruelty,
Or else that mightier maid whose care it is
To guard her strong and stainless majesty
Upon the hill Athenian,—alas!
That they who loved so well unloved into Death’s house should
pass.’

So with soft hands she laid the boy and girl
In the great golden waggon tenderly
(Her white throat whiter than a moony pearl
Just threaded with a blue vein’s tapestry
Had not yet ceased to throb, and still her breast
Swayed like a wind-stirred lily in ambiguous unrest)

And then each pigeon spread its milky van,
The bright car soared into the dawning sky,
And like a cloud the aerial caravan
Passed over the AEgean silently,
Till the faint air was troubled with the song
From the wan mouths that call on bleeding Thammuz all night long.

But when the doves had reached their wonted goal
Where the wide stair of orbed marble dips
Its snows into the sea, her fluttering soul
Just shook the trembling petals of her lips
And passed into the void, and Venus knew
That one fair maid the less would walk amid her retinue,

And bade her servants carve a cedar chest
With all the wonder of this history,
Within whose scented womb their limbs should rest
Where olive-trees make tender the blue sky
On the low hills of Paphos, and the Faun
Pipes in the noonday, and the nightingale sings on till dawn.

Nor failed they to obey her hest, and ere
The morning bee had stung the daffodil
With tiny fretful spear, or from its lair
The waking stag had leapt across the rill
And roused the ouzel, or the lizard crept
Athwart the sunny rock, beneath the grass their bodies slept.

And when day brake, within that silver shrine
Fed by the flames of cressets tremulous,
Queen Venus knelt and prayed to Proserpine
That she whose beauty made Death amorous
Should beg a guerdon from her pallid Lord,
And let Desire pass across dread Charon’s icy ford.
He was a Grecian lad, who coming home
With pulpy figs and wine from Sicily
Stood at his galley’s prow, and let the foam
Blow through his crisp brown curls unconsciously,
And holding wave and wind in boy’s despite
Peered from his dripping seat across the wet and stormy night.

Till with the dawn he saw a burnished spear
Like a thin thread of gold against the sky,
And hoisted sail, and strained the creaking gear,
And bade the pilot head her lustily
Against the nor’west gale, and all day long
Held on his way, and marked the rowers’ time with measured song.

And when the faint Corinthian hills were red
Dropped anchor in a little sandy bay,
And with fresh boughs of olive crowned his head,
And brushed from cheek and throat the hoary spray,
And washed his limbs with oil, and from the hold
Brought out his linen tunic and his sandals brazen-soled,

And a rich robe stained with the fishers’ juice
Which of some swarthy trader he had bought
Upon the sunny quay at Syracuse,
And was with Tyrian broideries inwrought,
And by the questioning merchants made his way
Up through the soft and silver woods, and when the labouring day

Had spun its tangled web of crimson cloud,
Clomb the high hill, and with swift silent feet
Crept to the fane unnoticed by the crowd
Of busy priests, and from some dark retreat
Watched the young swains his frolic playmates bring
The firstling of their little flock, and the shy shepherd fling

The crackling salt upon the flame, or hang
His studded crook against the temple wall
To Her who keeps away the ravenous fang
Of the base wolf from homestead and from stall;
And then the clear-voiced maidens ‘gan to sing,
And to the altar each man brought some goodly offering,

A beechen cup brimming with milky foam,
A fair cloth wrought with cunning imagery
Of hounds in chase, a waxen honey-comb
Dripping with oozy gold which scarce the bee
Had ceased from building, a black skin of oil
Meet for the wrestlers, a great boar the fierce and white-tusked
spoil

Stolen from Artemis that jealous maid
To please Athena, and the dappled hide
Of a tall stag who in some mountain glade
Had met the shaft; and then the herald cried,
And from the pillared precinct one by one
Went the glad Greeks well pleased that they their simple vows had
done.

And the old priest put out the waning fires
Save that one lamp whose restless ruby glowed
For ever in the cell, and the shrill lyres
Came fainter on the wind, as down the road
In joyous dance these country folk did pass,
And with stout hands the warder closed the gates of polished brass.

Long time he lay and hardly dared to breathe,
And heard the cadenced drip of spilt-out wine,
And the rose-petals falling from the wreath
As the night breezes wandered through the shrine,
And seemed to be in some entranced swoon
Till through the open roof above the full and brimming moon

Flooded with sheeny waves the marble floor,
When from his nook up leapt the venturous lad,
And flinging wide the cedar-carven door
Beheld an awful image saffron-clad
And armed for battle! the gaunt Griffin glared
From the huge helm, and the long lance of wreck and ruin flared

Like a red rod of flame, stony and steeled
The Gorgon’s head its leaden eyeballs rolled,
And writhed its snaky horrors through the shield,
And gaped aghast with bloodless lips and cold
In passion impotent, while with blind gaze
The blinking owl between the feet hooted in shrill amaze.

The lonely fisher as he trimmed his lamp
Far out at sea off Sunium, or cast
The net for tunnies, heard a brazen *****
Of horses smite the waves, and a wild blast
Divide the folded curtains of the night,
And knelt upon the little ****, and prayed in holy fright.

And guilty lovers in their venery
Forgat a little while their stolen sweets,
Deeming they heard dread Dian’s bitter cry;
And the grim watchmen on their lofty seats
Ran to their shields in haste precipitate,
Or strained black-bearded throats across the dusky parapet.

For round the temple rolled the clang of arms,
And the twelve Gods leapt up in marble fear,
And the air quaked with dissonant alarums
Till huge Poseidon shook his mighty spear,
And on the frieze the prancing horses neighed,
And the low tread of hurrying feet rang from the cavalcade.

Ready for death with parted lips he stood,
And well content at such a price to see
That calm wide brow, that terrible maidenhood,
The marvel of that pitiless chastity,
Ah! well content indeed, for never wight
Since Troy’s young shepherd prince had seen so wonderful a sight.

Ready for death he stood, but lo! the air
Grew silent, and the horses ceased to neigh,
And off his brow he tossed the clustering hair,
And from his limbs he throw the cloak away;
For whom would not such love make desperate?
And nigher came, and touched her throat, and with hands violate

Undid the cuirass, and the crocus gown,
And bared the ******* of polished ivory,
Till from the waist the peplos falling down
Left visible the secret mystery
Which to no lover will Athena show,
The grand cool flanks, the crescent thighs, the bossy hills of
snow.

Those who have never known a lover’s sin
Let them not read my ditty, it will be
To their dull ears so musicless and thin
That they will have no joy of it, but ye
To whose wan cheeks now creeps the lingering smile,
Ye who have learned who Eros is,—O listen yet awhile.

A little space he let his greedy eyes
Rest on the burnished image, till mere sight
Half swooned for surfeit of such luxuries,
And then his lips in hungering delight
Fed on her lips, and round the towered neck
He flung his arms, nor cared at all his passion’s will to check.

Never I ween did lover hold such tryst,
For all night long he murmured honeyed word,
And saw her sweet unravished limbs, and kissed
Her pale and argent body undisturbed,
And paddled with the polished throat, and pressed
His hot and beating heart upon her chill and icy breast.

It was as if Numidian javelins
Pierced through and through his wild and whirling brain,
And his nerves thrilled like throbbing violins
In exquisite pulsation, and the pain
Was such sweet anguish that he never drew
His lips from hers till overhead the lark of warning flew.

They who have never seen the daylight peer
Into a darkened room, and drawn the curtain,
And with dull eyes and wearied from some dear
And worshipped body risen, they for certain
Will never know of what I try to sing,
How long the last kiss was, how fond and late his lingering.

The moon was girdled with a crystal rim,
The sign which shipmen say is ominous
Of wrath in heaven, the wan stars were dim,
And the low lightening east was tremulous
With the faint fluttering wings of flying dawn,
Ere from the silent sombre shrine his lover had withdrawn.

Down the steep rock with hurried feet and fast
Clomb the brave lad, and reached the cave of Pan,
And heard the goat-foot snoring as he passed,
And leapt upon a grassy knoll and ran
Like a young fawn unto an olive wood
Which in a shady valley by the well-built city stood;

And sought a little stream, which well he knew,
For oftentimes with boyish careless shout
The green and crested grebe he would pursue,
Or snare in woven net the silver trout,
And down amid the startled reeds he lay
Panting in breathless sweet affright, and waited for the day.

On the green bank he lay, and let one hand
Dip in the cool dark eddies listlessly,
And soon the breath of morning came and fanned
His hot flushed cheeks, or lifted wantonly
The tangled curls from off his forehead, while
He on the running water gazed with strange and secret smile.

And soon the shepherd in rough woollen cloak
With his long crook undid the wattled cotes,
And from the stack a thin blue wreath of smoke
Curled through the air across the ripening oats,
And on the hill the yellow house-dog bayed
As through the crisp and rustling fern the heavy cattle strayed.

And when the light-foot mower went afield
Across the meadows laced with threaded dew,
And the sheep bleated on the misty weald,
And from its nest the waking corncrake flew,
Some woodmen saw him lying by the stream
And marvelled much that any lad so beautiful could seem,

Nor deemed him born of mortals, and one said,
‘It is young Hylas, that false runaway
Who with a Naiad now would make his bed
Forgetting Herakles,’ but others, ‘Nay,
It is Narcissus, his own paramour,
Those are the fond and crimson lips no woman can allure.’

And when they nearer came a third one cried,
‘It is young Dionysos who has hid
His spear and fawnskin by the river side
Weary of hunting with the Bassarid,
And wise indeed were we away to fly:
They live not long who on the gods immortal come to spy.’

So turned they back, and feared to look behind,
And told the timid swain how they had seen
Amid the reeds some woodland god reclined,
And no man dared to cross the open green,
And on that day no olive-tree was slain,
Nor rushes cut, but all deserted was the fair domain,

Save when the neat-herd’s lad, his empty pail
Well slung upon his back, with leap and bound
Raced on the other side, and stopped to hail,
Hoping that he some comrade new had found,
And gat no answer, and then half afraid
Passed on his simple way, or down the still and silent glade

A little girl ran laughing from the farm,
Not thinking of love’s secret mysteries,
And when she saw the white and gleaming arm
And all his manlihood, with longing eyes
Whose passion mocked her sweet virginity
Watched him awhile, and then stole back sadly and wearily.

Far off he heard the city’s hum and noise,
And now and then the shriller laughter where
The passionate purity of brown-limbed boys
Wrestled or raced in the clear healthful air,
And now and then a little tinkling bell
As the shorn wether led the sheep down to the mossy well.

Through the grey willows danced the fretful gnat,
The grasshopper chirped idly from the tree,
In sleek and oily coat the water-rat
Breasting the little ripples manfully
Made for the wild-duck’s nest, from bough to bough
Hopped the shy finch, and the huge tortoise crept across the
slough.

On the faint wind floated the silky seeds
As the bright scythe swept through the waving grass,
The ouzel-**** splashed circles in the reeds
And flecked with silver whorls the forest’s glass,
Which scarce had caught again its imagery
Ere from its bed the dusky tench leapt at the dragon-fly.

But little care had he for any thing
Though up and down the beech the squirrel played,
And from the copse the linnet ‘gan to sing
To its brown mate its sweetest serenade;
Ah! little care indeed, for he had seen
The ******* of Pallas and the naked wonder of the Queen.

But when the herdsman called his straggling goats
With whistling pipe across the rocky road,
And the shard-beetle with its trumpet-notes
Boomed through the darkening woods, and seemed to bode
Of coming storm, and the belated crane
Passed homeward like a shadow, and the dull big drops of rain

Fell on the pattering fig-leaves, up he rose,
And from the gloomy forest went his way
Past sombre homestead and wet orchard-close,
And came at last unto a little quay,
And called his mates aboard, and took his seat
On the high ****, and pushed from land, and loosed the dripping
sheet,

And steered across the bay, and when nine suns
Passed down the long and laddered way of gold,
And nine pale moons had breathed their orisons
To the chaste stars their confessors, or told
Their dearest secret to the downy moth
That will not fly at noonday, through the foam and surging froth

Came a great owl with yellow sulphurous eyes
And lit upon the ship, whose timbers creaked
As though the lading of three argosies
Were in the hold, and flapped its wings and shrieked,
And darkness straightway stole across the deep,
Sheathed was Orion’s sword, dread Mars himself fled down the steep,

And the moon hid behind a tawny mask
Of drifting cloud, and from the ocean’s marge
Rose the red plume, the huge and horned casque,
The seven-cubit spear, the brazen targe!
And clad in bright and burnished panoply
Athena strode across the stretch of sick and shivering sea!

To the dull sailors’ sight her loosened looks
Seemed like the jagged storm-rack, and her feet
Only the spume that floats on hidden rocks,
And, marking how the rising waters beat
Against the rolling ship, the pilot cried
To the young helmsman at the stern to luff to windward side

But he, the overbold adulterer,
A dear profaner of great mysteries,
An ardent amorous idolater,
When he beheld those grand relentless eyes
Laughed loud for joy, and crying out ‘I come’
Leapt from the lofty **** into the chill and churning foam.

Then fell from the high heaven one bright star,
One dancer left the circling galaxy,
And back to Athens on her clattering car
In all the pride of venged divinity
Pale Pallas swept with shrill and steely clank,
And a few gurgling bubbles rose where her boy lover sank.

And the mast shuddered as the gaunt owl flew
With mocking hoots after the wrathful Queen,
And the old pilot bade the trembling crew
Hoist the big sail, and told how he had seen
Close to the stern a dim and giant form,
And like a dipping swallow the stout ship dashed through the storm.

And no man dared to speak of Charmides
Deeming that he some evil thing had wrought,
And when they reached the strait Symplegades
They beached their galley on the shore, and sought
The toll-gate of the city hastily,
And in the market showed their brown and pictured pottery.
Cedric McClester Apr 2015
By: Cedric McClester

Abdul and the pirates
Often used to boast
How they had impunity
Along the Somalian coast
Taking ships whenever
The opportunity appeared
Holding them for ransom
So the ***** could be shared

Then the Maersk Alabama
Came into the sight
Of Abdul and the pirates
Quite to their delight
So they came aboard
Making their demands
But the unarmed Maersk crew
Took it from their hands

Abdul and the pirates
Had no idea at all
That they would be the ones
Eventually who would fall

So they took the captain
Who had volunteered
To become their hostage
As towards home they steered
Hoping they could reach
The Somalian shore
Where they would be successful
In demanding much much more

Abdul and the pirates
Had no idea at all
That they would be the ones
Eventually who would fall

A team of Navy snipers
Were quietly on the case
Looking for a target
When the order was in place
Abdul and the Pirates
Unwillingly complied
And that perhaps explains
Why it is they died

Abdul and the pirates
Had no idea at all
That they would be the ones
Eventually who would fall

So they took the captain
Who had volunteered
To become their hostage
As towards home they steered
Hoping they could reach
The Somalian shore
Where they would be successful
In demanding much much more

Abdul and the pirates
Had no idea at all
That they would be the ones
Evenually who would fall

Abdul and the Pirate
Aren’t around to boast
How they had impunity
Along the Somalian coast
Quite unfortunately for them
They’ve become burnt toast

(c) Copyright 2015, Cedric McClester.  All rights reserved.
grandma did steer the family ship
she always liked to be in command
those who questioned her stewardship
were quickly given a reprimand

her seven children always paid heed
to the orders she'd issue out
they were under her unbending reed
her edicts to them ever so stout

throughout her life she got her way
her dictates were well known to all
nothing but nothing was like her sway
everyone heard what she'd call

though she was a woman of authority
family members respected her stewardship
she had a steady hand like the admiralty
who so effectively steered the ship
Robert C Howard Jul 2016
They gathered by Williamson Road at sun-up
      from neighboring spreads across the Tioga valley.
They came with carts laden with lumber stacks -
      with saws, adzes, hammers and sundry tools.

They gathered with the homesteaders bond.
      to co-build their neighbor's' dreams.

Sweet music of community echoed off the hills.
     Chisels clanged into rock, shaping the foundation,
saws sang into boards to frame a timbered skeleton.
     The staccato syncopation of hammers fastened walls
that soon would shelter plowshares, stock and grain.
      A smithy leaned over his fire and forge -
chiming iron into sturdy latches and hinges.

     Children scurried about mixing squeals and laughter
with exuberant fetching and lifting whenever called.
    
In two short passings of the sun the deed was done
      and a handsome new barn, decked out in a wash of red
was silhouetted tall and proud against the fading light.

Homesteaders gathered at a celebration table
      to share a hearty meal adorned by the music
of fiddles, grateful smiles and easy laughter.
  
Then one by one they steered their wagons home
      gazing back at what their labors had wrought -
knowing to the depth of their communal souls
      that we are more together than we are apart

Listen up, America!  This is the music of community.
      We are more together than we are apart.

*© 2016 by Robert Charles Howard
Kate Little Apr 2010
As you start your new adventure
With hope, excitement and longing
I wonder about that greener pasture
And the dreams it might be growing

And as I muse, reflect and ponder
I settle with but one impression …
Whatever dreams are there and yonder
Are worthy of pursuit and possession

Please know of my sincere affection
For all the kindness shown
You steered me in a new direction …
A mentor, none better have I known

Your support so kindly imparted
Will be both missed and treasured
Lovely, generous and kind-hearted
A friend by whom friends are measured

I wish for you happiness and health
Amazing travels, both near and far
A future filled with such joyous wealth
But for now, my friend … Au revoir
Words © 2010 K A Little.
All Rights Reserved.
One star lit night I sat down to write, A Little short poem about dragons and kites
Though In nature they do differ still the similarities remain,
One’s found in a fairy tale adventure the other in a child's small hand to entertain.  
One has sharp teeth and a mouth that spits fire,
One holds a boys dream of a future aviator to inspire.
They both have long tails, though ones lined with ribbons the other lined with scales
And magic wings that lift them up higher over the highlands and vales
While catching a ride on the back of a strong wind gale
One lives in a cave and the other a toy box,
One sleeps on a rock and the other hangs from tree tops.
One’s tamed by the pull of a kite runner’s string,
The other steered by a dragon rider straddled between its wings.
One’s made from myth, legend, folklore and fear,
The other made from the design and blueprint of an inventor's mind's idea.
Ones made of sinews, muscles, flesh and bones,
The others made of a cross wooden stick frame over which cloth is stretched, and sewn.
Ones enchanted by wizards and knighted by kings,
The other’s to cheer up a child's heart and fulfill all his wishes and dreams.
And now out of my head my subjects take flight,
Now I do find there's no more to write,
Of the different and likes between dragons and kites.
Kunzite Hewitt Aug 2010
First, I would like to introduce Grayasety. She was a young girl, had soft strands of medium-short caramel hair, and she had green-blue eyes that looked like miniature earths. She was indeed a pretty girl and she was of average height, and had a healthy body. She also had a slight southern drawl; her mother was from Texas. She loved going on boat voyages as her father was the captain of a ship named Gray Asety, named after Grayesty, so she was often training to go on voyages.
                  One morning, just like any other ordinary morning, Grayasety left her house for the next-door stable with her baby sitter, Kinberly, which was part of her father’s crew.  Today was the big day, the day when Grayasety was going to go on a voyage with her father as an official crewmember. Today was Grayasety’s 13th birthday; today was the day when she was old enough to work on her father’s ship! Therefore, she gaily whistled and skipped along the road. It had always been her dream to work on her father’s ship, and today, finally, her dream was coming true. When she got to the stable she blew her small, pink whistle that, to human ears would make no sound, and like every morning her best friend, (which had the ability to morph into animals) trotted tiredly out of the stable in the form of a beautiful brown mare. The huge animal yawned and said, “Morning Kin!” And then addressing Grayasety she said, “ Well, well, little missy what do you want me to be today?” Today Grayasety wanted Mila to be a green parrot, Grayasety was obsessed in the color green, and Mila had reluctantly obeyed, the trio set off for the fresh smelling bay.
Kinberly, and Mila worked on the Gray Asety. Mann Forumest, or Captain Daddy as Grayasety called him had met Grayasety’s mom working as a crewmember on the Majesty, a steamboat. Grayasety’s mother, Magnolia Scott Forumest was the assistant cook. They married, but kept their jobs until one day when Grayasety was about five, the Sea Bandits, a notorious group of pretty woman stealers, kidnapped Her mother.
                        While on sea, Grayasety shared a rather large suite in the ship with her father. In the Bedroom were two desks, one big and one small, and in the corner was a bunk bed, the top bunk badly painted in green and the bottom bunk still bearing its natural mahogany color. Grayasety was sitting in her little green desk, scribbling madly in her deep green diary. Grayasety *** a liking of scribbling and those who have know her long enough could read her scribbles like one would writing. She could read and write although she was nowhere near a strait A student.
                   After a while Grayasety decided to bother her father and, forgetting to switch into her lime green boots, shinnyed up the main stairs to the deck in her faded fluffy mint green slippers. Mila, perched comfortably on Grayasety’s shoulder, started telling her that she was wearing her slippers when Grayasety shoved a faded green pacifier in Mila’s mouth; Grayasety often did this to keep Mila quiet.
Mila, not enjoying the dusty, stale taste of the pacifier unhappily decided to keep her mouth shut until Grayasty got in a better mood. In truth Grayasety was in a marvelous mood and rather liked shoving pacifiers in Mila’s mouth. As the girl got closer to the deck, she started to hear chanting from the kind crew. She especially heard Kinberly’s familiar raspy voice chanting,” Laaa dee daaa, the Gray A rolls along,” and as she emerged to the *****, wet deck she noticed that her father was talking to someone else already. “Botherin’ will have to wait some,” she whispered to Mila. Then she took the pacifier out of Mila’s mouth and scolded,” why didn’t you tell me that I was still wearin’ my slippers eh? Wanted to make me look like an idiot?” Mila simply rolled her eyes.
                    Right then, Captain Daddy, apparently finishing his conversation, came over to the pair and said affectionately, “How are my darlings doin’ today?” Mila especially enjoyed this for Captain Daddy always gave a loving stoke on her back and a whole chocolate chip cookie if he had one. Although Grayasety always stole some of the cookie Mila was happy enough with half. Grayasety, on the other hand was happy with a whole cookie so she begged Captain Daddy to give her another one. Captain Daddy gave her another cookie but chided her not to steal any more from Mila.
                    After the lecture on not stealing other people’s food, Grayasety clambered up the crow’s nest and almost knocked over Franz, a tall, but gaunt boy a couple years older then Grayasty getting in. ”Anythin’ unusual yet?” asked Grayasety hopefully. “Nope,” answered the calm boy quietly. ”Hi Franz. Do you have any cookies?” asked Mila mockingly, Franz just laughed and said,” If I had any I would of eaten it by now! Gray, can you get me somethin’ from the kitchen?”.
                   Grayasety got Franz a basket of food and got her self the same amount; Grayasety was basically always hungry, and had a little picnic on the roomy crow’s nest. After they finished their meal Grayasety decided to let Franz rest and did lookout. Franz had a small room to himself, which was about the size of a normal bathroom with all the stuff taken out. In the corner was an old, squeaky army cot and next to it was a rotund desk with a stack of blank paper, a jar of Indian ink, and a fountain pen laid precariously on it.
                    Franz was quite a writer and he spent his free time eating, sleeping, or writing and unlike Grayasety he actually wrote not scribbled. He was working on a story about gargoyles that came to life at night. It was an interesting story, really. He would of loved to stop working on the Gray Asety and go get his books published but he stayed for his family was a poor one and needed his help to make a living and also, Captain Forumest provided free paper. And, his daughter was the first friend he ever had; Franz was convinced that she was the best one.
                   Grayasety enjoyed being on ships. She liked feeling the cold air rush through her hair and she enjoyed the great view of the vast sea that surrounded her. She even liked the feeling of being so small compared to the humpbacks that swam by. She thought that the ship food was good, and she felt that the sea was truly where she belonged. Grayasety was very cranky when she was not at sea, (though she did like their big, ocean green house), so her father tried to include her on as many voyages as he could.
                     Captain Daddy, or Mann as I will call him spent most of day in a booth on the deck. He often worried about his daughter’s mental health (even though it was completely unnecessary). He talked to Grayasety’s doctor about this and Dr.Metalos, Grayasety’s doctor, gave them a list of mental deceases she could have, but none of them seemed like some thing she would have. Mann was sure that his daughter did not have one sickness; Much Too Much Time At The Sea Syndrome. If any one knew where Grayasety belonged it was Mann and he knew perfectly well that his daughter would go insane if she wasn’t at sea for too long. For one thing she preferred to sleep on her uncomfortable bunk at sea rather then on her fluffy green bed as soft as a feather at home.
                        Right then the ship did a tummy- flopping lurch and knocked off the map and compass from Mann’s desk, which interrupted his thoughts for a while. Below deck Franz’s desk toppled over, and Franz accidentally made a long and ugly scribble across his writing and on the crow’s nest Grayasety was having trouble standing up and she almost vomited right onto Kinberly’s hair. This was rare for Grayasety for she lived on the sea and was used to lurches; she had once survived a shipwreck, which explains her golden earring on her right earlobe.
                   That night as Grayasety lay in bed Mann quietly crept out of his bunk and scurried up the stairs to the deck. He wanted some time to himself. Ahead was Cape Horn; a very dangerous place where so many ships had sunk it could fill the biggest port in the world, but more personally, this was near the Sea Bandits main head quarters, 8 years ago the beautiful Magnolia Scott Forumest was captured here. Even though it was impossible in the foggy mist, Mann tried to make out the cave that marked the entrance to the headquarters. Only few people knew this entrance, and publicity stated that it was a “mere mystery” why most captives were capture near Cape Horn. Mann felt a chill run down his spine and then he thought he felt someone’s hand grab his shoulder. He looked down and saw what he dreaded most; a hand tinged with brown firmly held his shoulder.
                      Grayasety woke up feeling wonderful but apparently Mila didn’t. She kept screeching something about Captain Daddy being kidnapped and soon she found that what Mila had just screeched in her ear was true. She stormed into Franz’s cabin and told him what she discovered and they soon agreed to do what no one else wanted them to do; steer the boat right into the Sea Bandits’ headquarters and take back what, and who was theirs no matter how hard it could be.
                      Grayasety had Franz steer the boat and she herself navigated, Kin was lookout and the rest of the crew helped out. Franz dropped the passengers off at Puerto, and Mila morphed back into a human; what she really is, and helped out. Separated from the frenzy, Grayastey was quietly thinking to herself. She wondered why the Sea Bandits captured her father. They were well known for capturing pretty woman but not average looking men. Just then she heard a knock on the door. “Grayasety?” said the raspy voice of Kin. “There ya are. I just thought ya might wanna know why ya daddy was captured.” “Can you please tell me,” asked Grayasety, trying not to sound too eager. “Well rememba when ya daddy would be gone when ya woke up at mid night an’ I told ya that he had gone to the store to get some groceries? Well if you had thought some you woulda noticed that the store was closed.” Grayasety interrupted Kin in mid-sentence and said irritably, “Of course I rememba. Just get to the point Kin!” Kin flinched at Grayasety’s frustration and mumbled,” Well ya daddy was a spy. One of the best ones at that. He did all he could to stop organized crime, an’ he specialized in the Sea Bandit’s. They captured him ‘cause one less police the better for them.” Grayasety sat with her mouth hanging wide open. She never imagined that her father was a spy. But now every thing made sense. “ Sorry I didn’t tell ya before. Ya fatha simply wouldn’t allow it.” Kin apologized. Grayasety managed a squeak and then Kin left her.
                      After she repeated this to Franz and then Mila, Grayasety went down to her bedroom, she hated having to be near Her father’s belongings but she hated having people see her crying much more and cry she did, leaving her father’s mattress a soggy mess. Then she decided to clean that mess up for if they rescued her father she was sure he did not want to sleep in a soggy bed. Noticing it, she picked up her dad’s picture of her dad and mom’s wedding and became suddenly aware of how much she looked like her dad. The hair, the eyes, the quirky grin, every thing. Her mother had soft blonde hair and violet eyes that almost made you smell the pungent smell of lavenders and had a beautiful smile with bright red lips. All in all she was the most beautiful woman Grayasety had ever seen. She almost made Grayasety feel jealous.
                     “Hey! Gray. So are we gonna bring any weapons? Kin was a whole chest full of ‘em!” Said the distinctively low voice of Franz. “Well, I dunno. I suppose we should bring a couple guns. Always nice to be well prepared.” Replied Grayasety.

                     Franz was on lookout when the carrier pigeon came. The note it had on its leg was from Mann. It said:

Dear Grayasety and friends,

Do not come to save me. I’m with my wife in their dungeon but they want you guys to come too. You see, I’m like a bait. You’re the fishies. They want to erase all traces of the Forumest family. That means they have to dispose of those who would remember them. I will manage okay. Kin, Please take Grayasety and Franz home and forget about me for you and the children’s sake. Grayasety, I love you. Dispose all of my belongings and try to tell yourself that Kin is your mother. Believe me. It’s all for the better. Franz, I meant to tell you but your parents caught tuberculosis and died the other day. Your sister committed suicide soon after. Please take care of Grayasety.

             Mann

                    The trio stood silent for a long moment and then without warning Franz burst into tears, and scrambled to his cabin. Kin and Grayasety looked at each other sadly and went to their cabins themselves. Grayasety tried to sleep that night but images of Mann and her mother strapped up in chains kept her staring into the darkness with wide eyes. She reached over and got her personal music player, trying to distract herself but after a few seconds she turned it off again, for she could not bear listening to the lyrics; “It’s past midnight and something evil’s lurking 'round the dark” of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”.
            The next morning, Mila and Kin steered the boat near the cave that marked the entrance to the Sea Bandits secret headquarters. Mila then morphed into a seagull and flew into the old, damp cave. From a safe distance Grayasety and her crew awaited Mila to return with some news. After swooping into the creepy cave Mila found the opening to the headquarters and perched on a ledge near it. There, she morphed into a rat, and scurried up into the opening.

                 After crawling along several hallways, Mila came across a steel door bolted very firmly marked “CELLS”. Luckily Mila was small enough to crawl under it. Scurrying along the bureau of prisons, Mila finally saw a cell with Mann and a stunningly beautiful woman captured in it. Mila slipped between the bars and trying not to gain the woman’s attention for fear that she would scream, climbed the steep hill of Mann’s arm to try to reach his ear. “Mann?? Don’t make any sound OK?? I’m Mila. I’m the rat on your shoulder. Kin, Grayasety, and Franz say they miss you a lot.” Whispered Mila. Then she saw a humongou
A short story instead of a poem, but I hope you enjoy!
Any corrections, edits, suggestions etc. and greatly aprecciated!
In the mustardseed sun,
By full tilt river and switchback sea
  Where the cormorants scud,
In his house on stilts high among beaks
  And palavers of birds
This sandgrain day in the bent bay's grave
  He celebrates and spurns
His driftwood thirty-fifth wind turned age;
  Herons spire and spear.

  Under and round him go
Flounders, gulls, on their cold, dying trails,
  Doing what they are told,
Curlews aloud in the congered waves
  Work at their ways to death,
And the rhymer in the long tongued room,
  Who tolls his birthday bell,
Toils towards the ambush of his wounds;
  Herons, steeple stemmed, bless.

  In the thistledown fall,
He sings towards anguish; finches fly
  In the claw tracks of hawks
On a seizing sky; small fishes glide
  Through wynds and shells of drowned
Ship towns to pastures of otters. He
  In his slant, racking house
And the hewn coils of his trade perceives
  Herons walk in their shroud,

  The livelong river's robe
Of minnows wreathing around their prayer;
  And far at sea he knows,
Who slaves to his crouched, eternal end
  Under a serpent cloud,
Dolphins dive in their turnturtle dust,
  The rippled seals streak down
To **** and their own tide daubing blood
  Slides good in the sleek mouth.

  In a cavernous, swung
Wave's silence, wept white angelus knells.
  Thirty-five bells sing struck
On skull and scar where his loves lie wrecked,
  Steered by the falling stars.
And to-morrow weeps in a blind cage
  Terror will rage apart
Before chains break to a hammer flame
  And love unbolts the dark

  And freely he goes lost
In the unknown, famous light of great
  And fabulous, dear God.
Dark is a way and light is a place,
  Heaven that never was
Nor will be ever is always true,
  And, in that brambled void,
Plenty as blackberries in the woods
  The dead grow for His joy.

  There he might wander bare
With the spirits of the horseshoe bay
  Or the stars' seashore dead,
Marrow of eagles, the roots of whales
  And wishbones of wild geese,
With blessed, unborn God and His Ghost,
  And every soul His priest,
Gulled and chanter in young Heaven's fold
  Be at cloud quaking peace,

  But dark is a long way.
He, on the earth of the night, alone
  With all the living, prays,
Who knows the rocketing wind will blow
  The bones out of the hills,
And the scythed boulders bleed, and the last
  Rage shattered waters kick
Masts and fishes to the still quick starts,
  Faithlessly unto Him

  Who is the light of old
And air shaped Heaven where souls grow wild
  As horses in the foam:
Oh, let me midlife mourn by the shrined
  And druid herons' vows
The voyage to ruin I must run,
  Dawn ships clouted aground,
Yet, though I cry with tumbledown tongue,
  Count my blessings aloud:

  Four elements and five
Senses, and man a spirit in love
  Tangling through this spun slime
To his nimbus bell cool kingdom come
  And the lost, moonshine domes,
And the sea that hides his secret selves
  Deep in its black, base bones,
Lulling of spheres in the seashell flesh,
  And this last blessing most,

  That the closer I move
To death, one man through his sundered hulks,
  The louder the sun blooms
And the tusked, ramshackling sea exults;
  And every wave of the way
And gale I tackle, the whole world then,
  With more triumphant faith
That ever was since the world was said,
  Spins its morning of praise,

  I hear the bouncing hills
Grow larked and greener at berry brown
  Fall and the dew larks sing
Taller this thunderclap spring, and how
  More spanned with angles ride
The mansouled fiery islands! Oh,
  Holier then their eyes,
And my shining men no more alone
  As I sail out to die.
It was the schooner Hesperus
  That sailed the wintry sea:
And the skipper had taken his little daughter,
  To bear him company.

Blue were her eyes as the fairy-flax,
  Her cheeks like the dawn of day,
And her ***** white as the hawthorn buds
  The ope in the month of May.

The skipper he stood beside the helm,
  His pipe was in his mouth,
And he watched how the veering flaw did blow
  The smoke now West, now South.

Then up and spake an old sailor,
  Had sailed to the Spanish Main,
“I pray thee, put into yonder port,
  For I fear a hurricane.

“Last night, the moon had a golden ring,
  And tonight no moon we see!”
The skipper, he blew a whiff from his pipe,
  And a scornful laugh laughed he.

Colder and louder blew the wind,
  A gale from the Northeast,
The snow fell hissing in the brine,
  And the billows frothed like yeast.

Down came the storm, and smote amain,
  The vessel in its strength:
She shuddered and paused, like a frighted steed,
  Then leaped her cable’s length.

“Come hither! come hither! my little daughter,
  And do not tremble so:
For I can weather the roughest gale,
  That ever wind did blow.”

He wrapped her warm in his ******’s coat
  Against the stinging blast;
He cut a rope from a broken spar,
  And bound her to the mast.

“O father! I hear the church-bells ring,
  O say, what may it be?”
“Tis a fog-bell on a rock-bound coast!”—
  And he steered for the open sea.

“O father! I hear the sound of guns,
  O say, what may it be?”
“Some ship in distress, that cannot live
  In such an angry sea!”

“O father! I see a gleaming light,
  O say, what may it be?”
But the father answered never a word,
  A frozen corpse was he.

Lashed to the helm, all stiff and stark,
  With his face turned to the skies,
The lantern gleamed through the gleaming snow
  On his fixed and glassy eyes.

Then the maiden clasped her hands and prayed
  That saved she might be;
And she thought of Christ, who stilled the wave,
  On the Lake of Galilee.

And fast through the midnight dark and drear
  Through the whistling sleet and snow,
Like a sheeted ghost, the vessel swept
  Towards the reef of Norman’s Woe.

And ever the fitful gusts between
  A sound came from the land;
It was the sound of the trampling surf,
  On the rocks and the hard sea-sand.

The breakers were right beneath her bows,
  She drifted a weary wreck,
And a whooping billow swept the crew
  Like icicles from her deck.

She struck where the white and fleecy waves
  Looked soft as carded wool,
But the cruel rocks, they gored her side
  Like the horns of an angry bull.

Her rattling shrouds, all sheathed in ice,
  With the masts went by the board;
Like a vessel of glass, she stove and sank,
  **! **! the breakers roared!

At daybreak, on the bleak sea-beach,
  A fisherman stood aghast,
To see the form of a maiden fair
  Lashed close to a drifting mast.

The salt sea was frozed on her breast,
  The salt tears in her eyes;
And he saw her hair, like the brown sea-****,
  On the billows fall and rise.

Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,
  In the midnight and the snow!
Christ save us all from a death like this,
  On the reef of Norman’s Woe!
It is no night to drown in:
A full moon, river lapsing
Black beneath bland mirror-sheen,

The blue water-mists dropping
Scrim after scrim like fishnets
Though fishermen are sleeping,

The massive castle turrets
Doubling themselves in a glass
All stillness. Yet these shapes float

Up toward me, troubling the face
Of quiet. From the nadir
They rise, their limbs ponderous

With richness, hair heavier
Than sculptured marble. They sing
Of a world more full and clear

Than can be. Sisters, your song
Bears a burden too weighty
For the whorled ear's listening

Here, in a well-steered country,
Under a balanced ruler.
Deranging by harmony

Beyond the mundane order,
Your voices lay siege. You lodge
On the pitched reefs of nightmare,

Promising sure harborage;
By day, descant from borders
Of hebetude, from the ledge

Also of high windows. Worse
Even than your maddening
Song, your silence. At the source

Of your ice-hearted calling --
Drunkenness of the great depths.
O river, I see drifting

Deep in your flux of silver
Those great goddesses of peace.
Stone, stone, ferry me down there.
Alyssa De Marzo Apr 2018
Growing up, my grandmother always tried to hold me back from the girl I thought was my best friend.
Her name was Society.
My grandmother made it very clear that I was not to associate with Society and so that is what I did
for a while.
By the age of 7 I had an impressively large entourage of friends, whose parents also steered clear from Society.
We watched movies, made hot chocolate and talked about our hopes and dreams.
However just because the light burns bright, doesn't mean it's going to burn forever.
By the time I was 11 our coterie had fallen through.
The more we grew, the less we would hear our parents.
11 years young, and completely detached.
All my friends were now strangers.
Society was the only one I had left.
I always desired to be equals with her.
I tried so hard until there wasn't any ME anymore.
I was caught in between fitting in with the world and becoming estranged from myself
Society dug up every last seed that all sane adults plant into their children.
Mum raised me to believe that every inch, every atom and every molecule inside of me was worthy of love.
Society had taught me to pinch and pull at my body, accusing every bump, every scar and every imperfection for being some of the many reasons I was alone.
Society led me to rip every mirror off of the walls of my life.
"You don't wanna see that" She would whisper.
She was wrong until she was right.
For every 1 thing I found to love in the reflection,
Society would find 3 things to hate.
Society had taken the sparkle from my eyes because the other girls couldn't see past the glare.
Society silenced the protest in my gut because there weren't enough people on my side
but as I moved on to better people
I realized she was all a sham
I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth—
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth—
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?—
If design govern in a thing so small.
Waiting there in the railway station, a tall handsome young boy glanced over. She held a dark secret  that must  not be discovered.  Was  she in danger.?   . Rosa's past must be kept hidden. loudly steered in the train puffing and panting with all its might. Rosa feet moved quickly  and she hurried onto the moving train little did she know the young boy stood close behind her he hid in the next compartment, hoping that she see him. Rosa's eyes wilted into a deep sleep time had forgotten her past. the engine came to sudden haul, Rosa sprang quickly to her feet and she grabbed her belongings and ran down the long corridor to her surprise she noticed the same young man who waited close by her at the railway station. She nervously looked away. Rosa dreaded one thing her past. moments later she was ushered  into a taxi and she headed home to her aunts cottage.



Rosa arrived promptly the clock in the drawing room chimed half past nine.   Rosa walked gracefully into her Aunts drawing room but she was a little apprehensive of her aunts expectations she sat down on the fireside chair and raised her head at the rearrangement
of her mothers belongings  the wind howled from the back porch and she wondered if she had made the right decision coming back to her old roots. Maybe it was time to flee....
Her journey had some what tired her out. Soon she breathed a sigh of relief as she snugged down underneath the downy covers and fell soundly asleep. The next morning Rosa awoke to hear the birds chirping a romantic song. Rosa yawned,and stretched her legs. Suddenly there was a loud tap on the door.
"Do come in she replied"
"Madam can I draw back these curtains. nervously the maid said."
"Why thank you can put my breakfast tray over there on the table."
"Is their anything else that you require Madam."
"Nothing else at the moment smiled Rosa."

The sun gleamed through her aunts drawing room and soon yesterdays worries were all forgotten Rosa's thoughts had been rather judgmental perhaps she would now settle down to her new way of life. If only she could foresee her future.  Rosa tearfully looked out of the window after having a instant flashback of her teenage years the one that she wasn't proud of she felt nothing but shame Her Father only wanted to protect her. But now it was too
Late the consequences of that night affected her present, the past must never be allowed to catch up with her. She couldn't be a mother now it had destroyed her soul.
Rosa felt somewhat Cheated and if she fate should somehow be kind to her again. Given half the chance Rosa would snap it up.
But after her ordeal and the injuries she sustained, Rosa will    never be able to give birth again. And this broke her heart  into many pieces. She had given birth to twins the girl had died and the baby boy survived but she was far to young and so her Father had made arrangements for the child to be adopted with suitable parents who could provide a secure and stable up bringing. Rosa felt so alone and empty being robbed of her twins one lost to child birth and the other taken away how could she ever forget her sordid past. Rosa just wanted to forget,  But somehow it was coming back to haunt her.



Several dark long days had passed and Rosa busied herself in the kitchen preparing the meat pie for dinner. Molly the kitchen maid lay ill in her bed upstairs and her Aunt was to frail to help with the cooking.  Rosa breathed a sigh of relief when she had finished baking the meat pie for dinner. She pulled out the tea caddy from the cupboard and made herself a delightful twining s  tea, Rosa made some hot toast with honey and sat down at the kitchen table feeling lonely. she longed for the cool summer nights. But it was still a cold chill in the air. Her aunt sat in the front drawing room a Rosa took her up some tea and gently knocked on the door.
"Do come in My child.' could you please draw the curtain over a bit my head feels like it is about to burst open."
"Oh dear.'  Auntie I am sorry I'll go and fetch your pills."
"thank you Rosa."
That was the fist time her Aunt called her Rosa. maybe Her aunt Had a change of heart. The years had gone by so quickly
Rosa's aunt spent a lot of time in her bed. Molly spent nearly all day fetching and carrying until the sun hid behind the pale moon light. Molly looked rather pale so Rosa told her she could be released from her duties. She polity smiled and made her way upstairs to her room in the attic. The rain lashed onto the window
sill Rosa thoughts were on her son whom she had never seen, since the day he  was born. She still longed for him to come looking.  That kept her spirits alive.  Moments later there was a loud knock on the door. Rosa opened the door, There stood a young man the one that she had seen at the railway station. Rosa glanced awkwardly at the young mans face and then asked him a question.
"Have I met you before." she said."
Yes I do believe we have."        



After standing gazing at the young man she invited him in. Rosa felt a bit panicky, Who was he, and what on earth did he want.
She asked the young man if he was hungry. He said no that he had just finished his dinner at the hotel.
"But I could ****** a cup of tea. he replied.
" Please excuse me I won't be long."
Normally Molly maid  made the tea, But she was away for the weekend on leave and wouldn't be back until Monday morning.
Quickly she placed the teapot onto the tray along with some chocolate biscuits. Nervously she walked into the living room.
The conversation felt rather tense and while Rosa slipped her tea and plunged her biscuit into her tea.
Adam looked at Rosa and sighed deeply.
" And he blurted out are you my mother,?
" Surely you-------can't be.!        
"Mother look at me I am Your son."
She looked at him tearfully and her son embraced her tightly like a mother and son should. He just said hush I know the past and i want to put this all behind us.
Rosa looked at him and she couldn't believe that fate had bought him back for good...... the end .......

THE END.............
Like a mighty oak tree
you were an awe inspiring sight
Respect commanded from your presence
Crooked men were filled with fright
And while I grew, your hand was stern
Your leadership steered our small tribe
Fed discipline and regiment
Came from a past you could not hide
Kept calm and steady under pressure
Always ready and alert
The one who people would look up to
when in fear or if they’re hurt
A true natural born leader;
A sapient and astute mind
While viewed as witty and gregarious,
approachable and kind
These qualities and human traits
were visible so all could see
You were a brave and valiant man
yet, even still much more to me

They sent you off to war when you
weren’t much more than a boy
Permission was not something asked
when foreign country were deployed
And even though you weren’t commissioned,
rank gave you command of men
So every day tried to ensure
that they would make it home again
You did the best you could, I’m sure;
Was rarely ever talked about
You may have left, but had it with you
And a part did not get out

“Protector” who is watching over
Principle ingrained in you
When duty calls, the first to answer
Shared the ‘code of honor’ too
Just like that hero in the pages
of those comics that you read
So,“Truth” & “Justice” and “The American Way”
were not just slogans to be said
A perfect fit was your career
to those of us who knew you
Always said fell into it
Was something took “for now” to do
While trying to decide a path
Direction in life that you’d take
It’s funny, often life will choose;
Decision not for us to make

And every time you went to work;
That uniform you would put on
Not knowing what you’d have to face
Potential risks and unknown harm
Like ‘suiting up’ to go to battle
Might not leave it with your life
But did not hesitate or waiver
Was your job; Did not think twice
The risks were something you accepted
but in-no-way they defined
The thirty-four years giving service;
Same town lived in and spent time
Relations built; working together
Being there if ever needed
First one responding when alerted;
Helping those who begged and pleaded
Also, if they simply asked
No matter whether big or small
‘Protect and Serve’ - a lifelong duty;
Run to aid those if they called
But this was much more than an oath
Embedded in your moral fiber
Like a coded prime directive,
was not something you could fight or
try denying if you wanted
I don’t think you ever did
Reminder from those comic books
you fell in love with as a kid

You had a ‘Superman’ t-shirt
The one emblazoned with an ‘S’
Would wear beneath your button up
Discretely so no one would guess
You laughed it off as just a game
A type of joke or of the like
While growing up you were a fan
Since you were just a little tyke
I knew for you that there was more
The message you respected too
Face bad guys while maintaining morals and character
A narrative describing you

By definition human beings
Species flawed that make mistakes
A perfect man, not what you were
A task no one can undertake
I know you cared for each of us
You did the very best you could
but discipline, the critics draw
These actions are not understood
Until much later on in life
The child has become adult
Time granting wisdom, with this gift
Deciphering and figure out
Perspective is a funny thing
Eyes opened after having it
With all you dealt with in you life
Amazed you did not lose your ****
A stunning feat that is for sure
What you endured and undertook
Career added and family too
Not one page could write in your book

I only wish, I could have told you
Finally these things I know
Appreciate in ways could not
How passing time has made it so
But that same time took you from us
No longer are you with us here
At least not in a mortal form
My heart though I still hold you dear
Now added to that shirt you wore
You don a brilliant scarlet cape
While flying high up in the sky
And from you bad guys can’t escape
You kept us safe; You taught us well
Each day your wisdom’s guiding me
Impossible to fill your shoes
It's not something I try to be
Instead I strive to be the best
rendition of me possibly
and hope that it will be enough
when looking down, you’re proud of me

So many thought that they knew you
but deep down never did they know
From all of them a secret kept
There was something you did not show
They foolishly ate up your act
To them you weren’t more than a man
Don’t worry dad, I will not tell
but I know that you’re Superman.
Written: April 12, 2018 (revised and updated June 17, 2019)

All rights reserved.
Jaclyn Nov 2014
Yesterday,
Tender pursuits
Ordered
by shortened expression
And personal amusement.

Pleasure was channeled
by uncanny imagination.

Ignorance was developed
with years
of sheltered nurture.

Endeavors were focused
Through heartened dreams
Waiting eternities to age.

Today,
Life is starved of dignity,
Lead by the breath of humanity,
And trailed by my past.

Kindness overshadowed
by needless mockery.

Confidence diminished
Through thoughtless faults.

Purity saturated
with uncertain willingness.

Competence choked
from the flairs of society.

Tomorrow,
Independence is a necessity
Steered by Today,
Speckled by yesterday.

Motivation should dictate
my verdicts,
And challenge perils.

Agonies lifted
Through sanguinity

Virtue grown
Only through praise
From the satisfaction of many.

Yesterday, today, tomorrow
Immersed in today
Is the root of my future.
Caroline Oct 2012
The clock ticks, a persistent sound
So timely, predictable, comforting
Straight like a board, simplicity is complexity
The small hand is their conductor
Pup-petting their very motion

The walls creak the sound of despair
Longing to be relieved from their shackles
Hollowing out their insides, Revealing their holes
Concrete, stucco, asphalt  
Solidifies their existence

The board mocks their silent screams
An empty canvas to be scribbled upon
Steered by the gestures of its very strokes
Tainted by the smell of the ink’s sweet high
A reflection of their inner thoughts
The Trumpoet Feb 2017
So they hacked some computers.
"No big deal" you may say,
"Since their influence steered things
toward the right way"

"They just didn't respect us,
that's why the attack.
So I place all the blame
on the Dems and Barack"

"So we'll get nice and cozy,
Vladimir and me,
since there is just so much
upon which we agree"

"We want to be strongmen
who'll shape history
and we're both such examples
of virility"

"And we'll handle the media
through fear and attack
to ensure truth and balance
shall never come back"

"Admiration and power
is what we adore,
it's the one greatest cause
that we truly live for"

So, Mr. Trump...

When you're there in the Oval
and Europe's alarmed
'cause in Prague and in Warsaw.
the Russians, well armed,

have crossed o'er the borders
and come to reclaim
their former domininons,
then who will you blame?

So why this great bromance?
What's your motivation?
Why would you align
with Vlad and his nation?

Could it be business ties?
Or maybe high debt?
Or maybe dark secrets
you wish they'd forget?

I do not want to think
that it could be such things
but the Russians sure look
like they're pulling your strings.
You can also see this and my other Trump poems at: www.trumpoet.com
Link to video of this poem: https://youtu.be/VvZzczQhNEY
Written January 15, 2017
ConnectHook Sep 2015
ཆོས་ཀྱི་རྒྱ་མཚོ་

Bards of the bardo, hear my lay;
ye glacial Himalayas, sway.
Raise a warming toast in sake,
while my mystic muse gets cocky.

You who seek enlightenment
unto whom these lines are sent
open wide your spirit’s portal
(you – who are not yet immortal)

as we weigh a departed soul
and hurl a vajra – let it roll
with tantric thunderclap appeal
while startled Bodhisattvas reel.

Turn from the heights with sober eyes
and under less celestial skies
let us scrutinize the preacher,
pop-star and Tibetan teacher:

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
(born in a manger – so they say)
grew up deep in Eastern mountains,
fed by esoteric fountains.

Soon he became a monkish abbot
painting thankas, chanting sutra
in a saffron-colored habit
high above the Brahmaputra.

Later, the teacher headed west
suckling Maya‘s milky breast
selling used mantras on the way
to devas who came out to play.

Eventually, in Colorado
he rocked the Rockies, thrilled the Beats
Bringing to his own weird bardo
bolder moves and tipsy feats.

Crazy wisdom’s drunken master
clothed in smartly elegant style,
steered disciples toward disaster –
partying gleefully all the while.

He tantalized the Tantric flirts
by seeking Buddhahood up their skirts;
preaching, as their morals sunk
from The Tibetan Book of the Drunk

Meditating, glass in hand
life of the party (of the ******)
the master mingled with dakinis
deep in the bardo of red bikinis.

Leaving behind a score of tulkus
empty bottles, broken parts
books of empty words that fools choose
after charlatans steal their hearts,

Trungpa Rinpoche went down
shaman of shame, hung-over clown
and tried to mend his Karmic puncture
where the left-hand paths make juncture:

Axis of the All, he spoke
a massive Himalayan joke.
Chogyam’s sacred shambala
brought last laughs to the last hurrah.

When his Dharma-dream was ended
Trungpa woke in hell, a snowball;
karmic punctures still unmended
prisoner of the Bardo Thodol

Should you doubt the truths I tell,
the facts are documented well.
Crazy, isnt it? What we’ll take
from vajra-vendors on the make.
Limked version with images:
https://connecthook.wordpress.com/2015/04/11/vajra-cast-from-golden-heights/
Himal Nov 2013
Shiny shoes, black suit, red tie, red waist coat,
Wasn't ever enough for you? I try
Looking my best every day, take note,
Yet you still will choose him over me why?
You know, you two should not be together,
My disloyal brother, doesn't have a say,
They say young love never lasts forever,
Should’ve steered away, gone the other way,
My true brothers, my friends will stand by me,
Betrayal is the path of a rebel,
I’ll take the last stand and you’ll never see,
This face will skip away like a pebble,
I know that this conflict will end in war,
You’re like the others, just without a core.
Forth from the dust and din,
The crush, the heat, the many-spotted glare,
The odour and sense of life and lust aflare,
The wrangle and jangle of unrests,
Let us take horse, Dear Heart, take horse and win--
As from swart August to the green lap of May--
To quietness and the fresh and fragrant *******
Of the still, delicious night, not yet aware
In any of her innumerable nests
Of that first sudden plash of dawn,
Clear, sapphirine, luminous, large,
Which tells that soon the flowing springs of day
In deep and ever deeper eddies drawn
Forward and up, in wider and wider way,
Shall float the sands, and brim the shores,
On this our lith of the World, as round it roars
And spins into the outlook of the Sun
(The Lord's first gift, the Lord's especial charge),
With light, with living light, from marge to marge
Until the course He set and staked be run.

Through street and square, through square and street,
Each with his home-grown quality of dark
And violated silence, loud and fleet,
Waylaid by a merry ghost at every lamp,
The hansom wheels and plunges.  Hark, O, hark,
Sweet, how the old mare's bit and chain
Ring back a rough refrain
Upon the marked and cheerful *****
Of her four shoes!  Here is the Park,
And O, the languid midsummer wafts adust,
The tired midsummer blooms!
O, the mysterious distances, the glooms
Romantic, the august
And solemn shapes!  At night this City of Trees
Turns to a tryst of vague and strange
And monstrous Majesties,
Let loose from some dim underworld to range
These terrene vistas till their twilight sets:
When, dispossessed of wonderfulness, they stand
Beggared and common, plain to all the land
For stooks of leaves!  And lo! the Wizard Hour,
His silent, shining sorcery winged with power!
Still, still the streets, between their carcanets
Of linking gold, are avenues of sleep.
But see how gable ends and parapets
In gradual beauty and significance
Emerge!  And did you hear
That little twitter-and-cheep,
Breaking inordinately loud and clear
On this still, spectral, exquisite atmosphere?
'Tis a first nest at matins!  And behold
A rakehell cat--how furtive and acold!
A spent witch homing from some infamous dance--
Obscene, quick-trotting, see her tip and fade
Through shadowy railings into a pit of shade!
And now! a little wind and shy,
The smell of ships (that earnest of romance),
A sense of space and water, and thereby
A lamplit bridge ouching the troubled sky,
And look, O, look! a tangle of silver gleams
And dusky lights, our River and all his dreams,
His dreams that never save in our deaths can die.

What miracle is happening in the air,
Charging the very texture of the gray
With something luminous and rare?
The night goes out like an ill-parcelled fire,
And, as one lights a candle, it is day.
The extinguisher, that perks it like a spire
On the little formal church, is not yet green
Across the water:  but the house-tops nigher,
The corner-lines, the chimneys--look how clean,
How new, how naked!  See the batch of boats,
Here at the stairs, washed in the fresh-sprung beam!
And those are barges that were goblin floats,
Black, hag-steered, fraught with devilry and dream!
And in the piles the water frolics clear,
The ripples into loose rings wander and flee,
And we--we can behold that could but hear
The ancient River singing as he goes,
New-mailed in morning, to the ancient Sea.
The gas burns lank and jaded in its glass:
The old Ruffian soon shall yawn himself awake,
And light his pipe, and shoulder his tools, and take
His hobnailed way to work!

Let us too pass--
Pass ere the sun leaps and your shadow shows--
Through these long, blindfold rows
Of casements staring blind to right and left,
Each with his gaze turned inward on some piece
Of life in death's own likeness--Life bereft
Of living looks as by the Great Release--
Pass to an exquisite night's more exquisite close!

Reach upon reach of burial--so they feel,
These colonies of dreams!  And as we steal
Homeward together, but for the buxom breeze,
Fitfully frolicking to heel
With news of dawn-drenched woods and tumbling seas,
We might--thus awed, thus lonely that we are--
Be wandering some dispeopled star,
Some world of memories and unbroken graves,
So broods the abounding Silence near and far:
Till even your footfall craves
Forgiveness of the majesty it braves.
Prabhu Iyer Mar 2015
Resume: Jewel de Saex
Address: Lost somewhere up the hills.
                 email: me@yourownrisk.mule
                 Tel: + network not available

Summary

Hire me if: you are looking for an adventure.
Clouds, gorges, and I never disappoint, for we can cry.

Education

Bachelor, Mistress and Widower at the University of Zoya, majoring
in Life Sciences, with a minor in the applications of horseshoe magnets.

Expertise

I know them laws of attraction well +

New languages: both Silicon and Carbon-based ++

Magic, luck and fate.

Experience

For years I steered a boat
riding a rough river that
passed storms every day.

I was the rain-maker, I can
bring tears to any passing cloud
by my mere hand-gesture:
(all the dough-kneading.)

I was also the chief gardener
for Loz, whose farms at
the other end of the Earth
I visited by the switch door
in my old photo-albums each day.

Skills

Jugglery, innovative use of cutlery, reading runes, plucking prunes,
riding boats on dunes, talking by eyes, hearing by sight.

References: Not available even on request.

*NOtes:

+   Turn pages back and you always find, only one person was in love.

++ I can decipher the meanings in the lispings of cherubs and angels.
     I understand the cloud and the river, as of men in any tongue.
Next poem in the #Hermit series: this one is based on the Surrealist 'dream resume' technique. Zoya means life.

.
LJ Chaplin Jun 2013
It has been grasped in my fingertips,
The reins that have steered my conscience,
The compass that has guided me through the wilderness
Of myself,
Forests and vast landscapes sculpted by trepidation,
The flowing river of guilt that flows between the cracks
Of my positive façade,
The tables are starting to turn,
The piece of mind I have allowed to dictate my actions
Has shifted towards the edge of a cliff,
Left to plummet to the jagged rocks of my insecurities,
The storm clouds are rolling in from the horizon,
Guttural claps of thunder erupting,
Pulses of lightning striking the last of my happiness,
Shattering it into a million fragile pieces,
Left to burn in the heat of the growing tension
Of my worries,
I'm slipping,
Clinging onto the edge and not looking down,
Not looking down at the twisted fate below
As if I would be staring into the smouldering depths
of hell

I'm too tired to hold on,
I have to let go,
*I have to fall.
I
Parting from the golden tinge that tears the azimuth
The red orb descends into the vast blue
Infuses a consortium of colors immaculately blend, an interlude
Between the morn, and the night that has to brew

A stillness engulfs the trees, the night dawns
The last rays sieved by the green leaves, swivel through
Escape from the small pockets, shimmering, marking their finale
Afraid from his embrace, light the path in lieu

Amongst the drowned colors of the night, he moves
Trampling the undergrowth, merging into singleton
And though his destination's vague, for others he carves a path
Follows the constant ire, within his heart that burns

And this began years ago, roots unclear
When fingers hadn't yet gained freedom from flesh
And a luring innocence emanated from within
Cuddled in his mother's ***** he rest

From a bedlam of impetuous thoughts arose
A symphony both bitter and sweet
Ridden with memories, some wounds and falls
An overture of edification he knead

Though the day he learnt to tame
In the dark velvet, white jewels they shined
A servitude of the dreams, trapped awaiting emancipation
He set them free, let them touch the open skies

Taught and steered by the ethereal sun
He embarked on a voyage into the unknown
Trying to steer into the path, nebulous that lay
Though comrades there were, he vanguard all alone

II
The patter on the leaves beseech him from the trance
As the faint drizzle makes its way through
The carved lines on his face that hide deep within
Underneath this hardened countenance, a figure unblemished, raw and ****

And then he sees Nature unleash itself
Her eyes gleaming red with rage
Irked by the persevering being that stands before
She vows to vanquish him failing the riddle she lays

"O fellow-being, I am Nature", she cries
"I have seen a myriad of men come this way
But few could pass, who could answer me correctly
Listen carefully O traveller to what I am about to say

Tales speak of a thing within with mysterious origins
Whose workings be elusive and indiscernible
But O my dear friend, it lays carefully hidden and though we can't see
It vivifies the moment, to make the next turn"

As her hair waves in an eccentric swipe
Like Hades from Hell, she tore
"Tell me what it is, for I forbid thee to go further
Answer wisely, so that I know that thy heart is naught but pure"

As he remains mesmerized, feet transfixed to the ground
The courage and valour he has loomed over so many years
Trickles down with the warmth and the cold sweeps in
As the bells ring, the symphony of the impending doom is loud and clear

The very earth beneath him quivers
With a thunder, as an eerie force pulls mountains apart
And these vestiges of time adorn and reflect
The cursed fire that ensues beneath the two halves

The covetous fires leap, advancing towards their prey
As the tumult above marks its arrival
With a crescendo, the storm imposes its anarchy
The clouds do its bidding, the skies they stifle

The exodus of the falling black rain
A blanket covering the sky, sheds out the light
The Satan's canvas anew, the impenetrable darkness pierces
Awaits the strokes that pervades the crimson into the night

As the mountains rise up, blot out the way
The vultures lay sprawled, their eyes, they shine
And these scavengers of death swoop down, sniffing, awaiting the moment
The hunger glistens in the pupils, today, to their appetite they dine

And he stumbles upon a rock and falls
As the storm vivified by the fire creates havoc
He lays exhausted, a numbed mind, though awake
And he witnesses it though the windows of his eyes that lifts his shock

Amongst the carcasses and the carrion strewn on the bloodied ground
Carrying the dead, the little creatures, ants, unaffected they stride
As they move on, compelled by an unfaltering force
Binding them, as they tread these dark knights

And he realises, what be these, these colossal clouds?
Intangible they may seem, it's the air we breathe, remain just misty shrouds
What be the mountains that stand on our lands?
Boulders they may be, remain just mounds of sand

Darkness never ceases unless one open the eyes
Like the wind only carries those who spread their wings
And the destination is never near until taken the first stride
Just as the tide only sails those who hold on to the mast's strings

Dreams shatter and hard blows we receive
Our eyelids close, wet waters they meet
But we look at the lily, from the depths of the murky waters, it rises
Basking, with a smile, the sun it greets

He speaks "Faith be the elusive power that exists within
Emphasises the goal in the turbulent times
Each human capable of it, umarked by religion or creed
Urges the torment laden heart to beat along", as Nature smiles

And with a single wave of her hand, it all vanishes
He stands before the place that his heart for eons has yearned
And the utopia unfolds as his dreams present themselves before him
And his eyes finally give way, to the tears he has for so long shunned

As he stands captivated, ebullient
Savouring each bit of the magnificent sight
The fresh fragrant air fills his nostrils, as he understands
It hasn't been the destination but the voyage he has prized

As a flock of birds chirrup their way through
And the wind toys with his hair, him they beckon
He smiles and with a lasting glimpse
He starts off again, for sleep has yet to come.
Brown lived at such a lofty farm
  That everyone for miles could see
His lantern when he did his chores
  In winter after half-past three.

And many must have seen him make
  His wild descent from there one night,
‘Cross lots, ‘cross walls, ‘cross everything,
  Describing rings of lantern light.

Between the house and barn the gale

And blew him out on the icy crust
  That cased the world, and he was gone!

Walls were all buried, trees were few:
  He saw no stay unless he stove
A hole in somewhere with his heel.
  But though repeatedly he strove

And stamped and said things to himself,
  And sometimes something seemed to yield,
He gained no foothold, but pursued

Sometimes he came with arms outspread
  Like wings, revolving in the scene
Upon his longer axis, and
  With no small dignity of mien.

Faster or slower as he chanced,
  Sitting or standing as he chose,
According as he feared to risk
  His neck, or thought to spare his clothes,

He never let the lantern drop.

The figures he described with it,
  “I wonder what those signals are

Brown makes at such an hour of night!
  He’s celebrating something strange.
I wonder if he’s sold his farm,
  Or been made Master of the Grange.”

He reeled, he lurched, he bobbed, he checked;
  He fell and made the lantern rattle
(But saved the light from going out.)

Incredulous of his own bad luck.
  And then becoming reconciled
To everything, he gave it up
  And came down like a coasting child.

“Well—I—be—” that was all he said,
  As standing in the river road,
He looked back up the slippery *****
  (Two miles it was) to his abode.

Sometimes as an authority

Should say our stock was petered out,
  And this is my sincere reply:

Yankees are what they always were.
  Don’t think Brown ever gave up hope
Of getting home again because
  He couldn’t climb that slippery *****;

Or even thought of standing there
  Until the January thaw
Should take the polish off the crust.

And then went round it on his feet,
  After the manner of our stock;
Not much concerned for those to whom,
  At that particular time o’clock,

It must have looked as if the course
  He steered was really straight away
From that which he was headed for—
  Not much concerned for them, I say:

No more so than became a man—

I’ve kept Brown standing in the cold
  While I invested him with reasons;

But now he snapped his eyes three times;
  Then shook his lantern, saying, “Ile’s
’Bout out!” and took the long way home
  By road, a matter of several miles.
Isabel Jul 2014
Long car rides
pointing,
turning left and right
as we take the empty road.
One hand on the steering wheel,
and the other interlocked in mine,
we created memories.
Then you steered right,
and I steered left.
Now all that remains
are the memories
in memory lane.

— The End —