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Tom Vassos Dec 2019
Stumbling around,
Not getting anywhere.
Lost in despair,
Lost in grief.

Stumbling in circles,
Not waking up from my dream.
Lost in my thoughts,
Lost in the past.

Stumbling to helpless,
Not able to heal my heart.
Lost in emotions,
Lost in anguish.

Stumbling to nowhere,
Not knowing how to rise up.
Lost in my sorrow,
Lost in my guilt.

Stumbling to bitter,
Not knowing what to do next.
Lost in the *******,
Lost in the anger.

Stumbling to decline,
Not knowing how to break free.
Lost in confusion,
Lost in delusion.

Stumbling to distress,
Not knowing why I love you.
Lost with the demons,
Lost in the quagmire.

Stumbling to nothing,
Not knowing true devotion.
Lost in my torment,
Lost in the nonsense.

Stumbling to disorder,
Not knowing how to fight back.
Lost in the chaos,
Lost in the fury.

Stumbling to agony,
Not knowing how to change course.
Lost in a big mess,
Lost in silent wounds.

Stumbling to destruction,
Not knowing how to stand tall.
Lost in seclusion,
Lost in disillusion.

Stumbling to extinction,
Not caringwhere I end up.
Lost in devastation,
Lost in ruination.

Wake up, wake up,
Stand up, stand up,
Grow up, grow up,
Rise up, rise up,
Fight back, fight back,
Strike back, strike back,
Soar now, soar now.

Close the door…     Break free.
Ron Sanders Feb 2020
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Alyssa Underwood Sep 2017
There is little in this world that consistently causes our hearts more pain or which produces in us more need for forgiveness than rejection, especially from those whom it has cost us so much to love. It is universal anathema to the soul, and much of our lives can be unconsciously governed by the fear of it. So we find ourselves naturally asking, "Joy in the midst of rejection? Is that even possible?" Oh, yes! Not only possible but commanded of us who are believers in Christ. And not only commanded of us but ready to be gloriously bestowed on us like the most precious of pearls.

It's in the season of greatest rejection that we enter the season of greatest opportunity to discover the fullness of God's joy by discovering the fullness of His own heart. Walking in intimacy with Jesus through this searing pain may be one of the most priceless privileges of grace granted to us on this earth, for it opens up one of the widest doors for us to enter into the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, and there is no more obvious chance to die to ourselves and live for Christ than in that holy communion of suffering with Him.

It's there that we're most able to clearly see Him and best prepared to clearly reflect Him, and it's then that we're empowered to live our lives here on earth from the very throne room of heaven, seated in the resurrected presence of our Bridegroom, where the joy always runs full and over. So our deepest heartaches will turn to deepest joys when we embrace them for the sake of Christ, to gain Him and be found in Him, to know Him in intimate detail through excruciatingly sweet experience. We will discover that the Lord entrusts the most luscious of blessings and the rarest of secrets to the most desperate and thirsty of souls, and that He delights to place the loveliest of wings on the lowliest of worms.

The gifts of myrrh's sorrow which the Father pours into the vessels of our lives are poured first into the hands of His own Son and flow through His nail-pierced scars before they ever touch us. And as we choose to graciously receive them as such, we are filled up with Him and enabled to pour Him out into the lives of others, even those who continually scorn and despise us.

The gift (yes, gift) of rejection is the high privilege of being asked by our Commander to become His flag bearer, receiving the esteemed honor of marching beside Him at the center of the front line, into the heat of the battle and into the face of the "enemy" (the rejecter), armed with no gun and carrying only His banner of love over our head for all to see. It's a sacred invitation into a certain death for the sake of knowing His love more intimately and for the service of displaying it more gloriously.

And if tempted to refuse the privilege, let us remember these two things: this life is so much more freely, joyfully lived when we have finally learned to count ourselves dead to it and alive to Christ, and the flow of His agape love through us will only be as strong as what it costs us to demonstrate it. The greater the cost, the purer the love; the purer the love, the more we are made like Him; the more we are made like Him, the more attuned we will be to His own heart's breaking and to our own breaking of it.

Oh, that we might be purged of ever thinking again that our neglecting of His love does not matter to Him! May He cause our hearts to break and break until we see how much it does! May we know the world's rejection again and again until we are finally scoured clean of our own despicable tendency to reject Him in favor of all our worldly playthings! No lover has ever endured more rejection than our Lover at our own hands and by our own hearts. And no lover continues to love through rejection with the determination and desire, suffering and sacrifice, tenderness and tenacity of our own Bridegroom. Can we not endure whatever He has called us to suffer for Him? Can we not allow it to drive us more fervently to His heart?... Lord, capture us by Your mighty hand and consume us by Your mighty flame, and may we pant and pine only for You, for Your love sets us free to dance in the midst of the fire!

How humbling, mystifying and worship-evoking it is to realize that the One we have so grievously rejected is the same One Who so perfectly understands and longs to comfort our own heart's grief when we are rejected. And to not run to Him now for that fellowship of healing would be to reject Him all over again and to break His heart once more. What could hurt Him more than our stubborn resistance to share in both His sufferings and His comfort when there is so much joy and intimacy waiting to be had with Him? Whatever ache our own heart knows, however deep and scathing, it cannot compare to the ache of His own heart when we let anything pull us away from Him, for He is rightly EVERYTHING to us—Father, Husband, Lover, Best Friend, Brother, Confidante, Kindred Spirit, Counselor, Nurturer, Rescuer, Healer, Hero... Behind the pain of every rejection is a legitimate need or desire that He is waiting to fill in us, and we have to let Him get to it by dying to our fleshly ones.

Or do we suppose that we might ever find true and lasting joy apart from dying to ourselves and abiding in Him when He died so that we might fully live in the joy of that abiding? No, true joy will only follow abiding; abiding and dying walk hand in hand, and rejection throws open the door for all three. Man's rejection is central to God's wooing, for it shatters our false expectations of human love and stirs in our hearts the longing for a perfect one. So let us not shrink back fearfully from that which can do us such good and teach us to love as Christ has loved us. With renewed passion, let us ask Him to wrap every affection of our hearts more tightly around Him that every desire might be united with His own and that we might learn to love in a way that sets our lives and the world around us ablaze!

To be despised and rejected and, still, to love—that is the ultimate triumph of Christ in our hearts, for we are never more like Him, never more full of Him, never more surrendered to His heart and His work than when He pours out His love through us to those who will not love us back. When we can stand in the face of bitter, cutting words, contemptuous looks and shaming mockery and still love fiercely but with a gentle and quiet spirit, we will know without doubt that it is His Spirit moving gloriously through us... Lord Jesus, Who so willingly floods our hearts with Your most precious gift, Yourself (and You are Love!), teach us to ever know You more and to rely fully on the love You have for us and ARE for us in infinite supply. Teach us to feast on the abundance of that love, and let it flow freely out of us to the ones who would reject, scorn, mock and hate us, so that they too might one day taste and be consumed by Your perfect love which drives out all fear—Your infinite, immeasurable love which heals all wounds and fills all emptiness and gives meaning to all of our pain. You alone, O LORD, are able to truly and purely love through rejection, but You live gloriously in us, so unleash Your mighty waters through us. Your love is everything, for You are Everything!...

Our all-sufficient Bridegroom is able to work His agape love most perfectly in us when that love poured out to another is not ever reciprocated, for it forces us to finally let Him fill us with Himself alone and to rely completely on His love instead of on the love of another to meet our heart's deepest hunger. The need for His filling IS our deepest hunger, and so our soul comes most alive not when it is loved by our fellow man but when it receives and pours out Jesus' love to our fellow man, expecting nothing in return but more of Him. Thus His love is made complete in us whether they ever love us back or not, and the fear of their rejection is eventually driven out by His perfect and perfecting love.

Even if love is never returned...never even received...it is never in vain, for "love never fails." To love someone, though we mean nothing to them, may seem too cruel a burden for the heart to bear, but the only thing worse than not being loved is to not love, and so the greatest tragedy of love spurned or lost would be to stop loving. For to cease loving that which causes us pain would be to let the pain win, but for as long as we love, really love with Christ's own heart, no matter what else happens, we win.

Love without pain remains unproven and, therefore, is meaningless, but love through pain invokes nothing less than the miraculous and inspires even the incredulous. The purer one's love, the more pain it causes when it is rejected, but only continued love can redeem the pain of loving, and only a perfect Love can heal love's scalding wound; the more scalding the wound, the better primed it is to receive that perfect Love fully into it.

There is great romance to be found in unrequited love that keeps loving, though it is beyond any human emotion or fleshly capacity or mortal understanding. It is a most sacred mystery which cannot be grasped with the head or even the heart but only with the spirit, for it is a love whose connection to Christ remains unsevered. There is perhaps no intimacy to compare to it, for it drives us to Him like nothing else will. It is a love whose longing for the other gives us the greatest insight into God's own aching longing for us. Only when it has cost us everything to keep loving do we begin to understand the smallest fraction of the wildly extravagant love Christ has for us or of the brutally scandalous pain which it has cost Him, and it will leave us in utter awe of Him and in love with Him like we have never been before.

As our focus is turned more and more toward His love for us and toward all of our previous rejecting of it, we will come to clearly see that agape love and rejection have everything to do with the the hearts of the lover and the rejecter and nothing to do with what the beloved and the rejected have done or deserve. For obviously we have done nothing to deserve God's love and He has nothing to deserve our rejection, yet He never stops loving us and we keep rejecting Him in ways we can't even comprehend. No one has ever known more rejection than the only One Who is completely worthy of love. Every time we sin we reject Him in favor of something else, but still He loves us without fail and without end. He loves us because He is love and because He has chosen to set His love on us. We are absolutely and irrevocably loved and accepted in Christ Jesus, and nothing and no one can ever change or mar that love. Our identity is completely secure in Him simply because of Who He is and who He says we are to Him.

Therefore no amount nor depth of rejection by anyone changes anything about who we are in Christ or our worth to Him. We do not need any man's love or acceptance to validate our worth, for it has already been established in the heavenly realms by the only One Whose verdict carries any real and lasting weight. We are significant and precious and holy to God regardless of what anyone else thinks of us or says of us or does to us. What has their rejection got to do with us? Nothing, for we are His! We are chosen and we are beloved! And so we are freed from the fear of rejection when we see that it cannot define us or taint us in the sight of the only One Whose opinion or judgment matters. It's a glorious thing to finally care what no man thinks of us, only the Master, for then we begin to be free to love all men as He loves them and to pray with deepest sincerity, humility and fervor even for those who spitefully reject us.

And even for that one who has hurt us most deeply, who has crushed our heart and thrown us to the wind like chaff without so much as a glance back, we will pray, no longer with only a slight and distant hope that he would return to us but now with a passionate desire to see the prodigal return to the heart of the Father. We will pray, not with a focus on life with him but with a focus on life for him. We will pray for a total and glorious restoration of his life to Christ, even if we will never be there beside him to share in the fellowship and joy of his homecoming, even if we will never get to experience up close in this life the thrill of seeing the Lord make something beautiful yet of his ashes. And this may be the hardest and truest test of our love for him—this painful sacrifice of desiring his absolute best apart from us. It is a wrenching blow to our pride and to our will (not to mention our codependence), for we had so longed to play the Muse and to awaken that beauty in him. So we know we could never yearn or pray for this out of our own strength or wisdom; it is simply too painful to our flesh. We must be led into it and through every delicate step of it by our loving Redeemer, our Bridegroom, as if He were leading us out under a canopy of the starry host and into the most intricate and intimate of moonlit dances. And so we begin to pray and to dance...

But even wrapped in Jesus' arms we are clumsy, stumbling miserably over our own feet. The music is perplexingly unfamiliar and the steps wildly unpredictable, and our toes feel terribly pinched in these new shoes. Maybe this dance is just too hard for us. Maybe we are not yet ready. Maybe we should sit it out for now and try again later when our shoes are a little more broken in or when our heart is a little less broken apart. So we pull away...

But He tenderly beckons us back: Dear and beloved bride, broken-but-beautiful one whom I have made My own, do not push Me away now, not after I have brought you so far. I have many more secrets to share with you and so much more to show you of Myself. But you are not letting Me lead this dance, beloved. Why are you so rigid in My embrace? Why so worried over the next steps? Let go of everything and abandon yourself to My love. Enjoy Me...Follow Me...Lean into Me...Keep watching My face...Let Me move you however I desire us to go...Trust Me...Love Me. Shall we dance, then?

Yes, we shall and we do! As He draws us into Himself, into the prayer of His heart and the dance of His Spirit, and as we give ourself over completely to the impulse of His leading, the details of our words and the precision of our steps give way to the desire and passion of His will, and the pulsating of our heart swirls to the rhythm of His own. The further He pulls us into union with Himself, the more we find ourselves desiring this same intimacy-with-Him for the very one who has so badly hurt us, for we see how badly he himself is hurting without it. We realize now that his running away from us and toward another is just as much a reflection of his insatiable yet misunderstood craving for God as was all of our running toward our own idols (including him). Our soul aches for his redemption and his healing and for his lost sheep's heart to be brought out of darkness and into the marvelous light that shines from Jesus' face, that he might truly know the pleasure of knowing the One Whose pleasure he was created for.

Somehow, through this heightened and mysterious intimacy of prayer for him, we are now discovering a strange and new kind of intimacy with this very one whose intimacy had so often given us the slip, this one whom we had so long loved and lived with but failed to uncover at all, and the fresh wind of it drives us even deeper into the ache of God's own heart for him and for us. It is at the center of that ache that we are finally able to let go of the hurt and the man and leave the matter entirely in God's hands, understanding that the Shepherd's aching heart knows fully all whom He has chosen and will never stop dealing with or seeking after any of His own sheep. And so...


                        We release to Him with a heart of trust
                        This one whom we love and always must
                        We can let go the man and rest because
                        It's out of our hands and always was



But the dance, like the feast, goes on and on, and the more we dance and the more we feast, the more we heal. Our Bridegroom wounds us by His own providence but washes our wounds with His faithfulness and binds them up with His love. The wounds and their healing make us beautiful to Him. They teach us to know Him, to hunger for Him, to enjoy Him and to please Him. And they get us perfectly ready for that most glorious of dances and that most joyous of feasts which are still to come but, perhaps, much closer than we might dare to imagine. It is time to awaken, dear bride of Christ, and to break in our dancing shoes!
~~~


"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because He first loved us."
~ 1 John 4:16-19

"And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."
~ Romans 5:2b-5

"As you come to Him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."
~ 1 Peter 2:4-5

"He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem.
Surely He took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by Him, and afflicted.
But He was pierced for our transgressions,
    He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on Him,
    and by His wounds we are healed."
~ Isaiah 53:3-5

"But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things... I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death..."
~ Philippians 3:7-8a,10

"But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

"For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ."
~ 2 Corinthians 1:5

"'Blessed are you who hunger now,
    for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
    when they exclude you and insult you
    and reject your name as evil,
        because of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets...But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you...Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.'"
~ Luke 6:21-23,27-28,36

"Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18

"You make known to me the path of life;
    You will fill me with joy in Your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at Your right hand."
~ Psalm 16:11

"I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."
~ Ephesians 3:16-21

~~~
Alissa Rogers Mar 2017
I was stumbling in a field.
Firelight in my eyes,
Burning bright red
in the camera lens.
It wasn't a trick of the light,
the drugs or the beer;
it was a glance of love.
I was stumbling in a field.
Red-eyed and smitten,
Crossing minefields to you by choice.
Perhaps that is the only way
to walk the course of love.
"He was a glance from God."
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
alasia May 2016
I have spent my life stumbling over the same mistakes generations of the people around me made clear I should not make. I know now that though this life is hard: this life is good. And I believe it more than ever because I hear it in the music of her words and the smile on her face and I can't help but be excited to raise the new humans and prepare them for the race. They will know life is not always winning because that's always tripped me up, I will show them simple victories like learning to persevere through the hard things. So when they find themselves making my mistakes they will know its okay to walk away and that they never have to justify why they didn't stay because no person will ever be reason enough to cut yourself open and beg to be loved. In the distant future along the fading sun I can tell my life is far from over and in fact it's hardly begun, my life has started and stopped though the world has never waited and I've questioned how we've come into existence and I've existentially debated but I'm aware now, more than ever, I love. I love deeply and passionately and violently it's true, and someday that will be enough for somebody and they'll return the feeling with real meaning and together we will fight the blackness that has threatened us and create a fire in our chests that burns brightest when we're together so if we ever get lost in the black hole we can find each other's lights and be drawn to each other's warmth and this fire will never be extinguished. Like wildfire, we'll let it spread, share it with our family, our children, our friends. This someday life will one day be in my hands because I've found a sturdy balance and stopped stumbling and instead learned. Even when life hurts there are worse things than being burned.
I had to grow down to remember how to grow up.
Chloe Chapman Sep 2016
I was stumbling through life when I met you.
Unbalanced on the uneven terrain
of God
and school,
and friendships,
and family.
But you caught hold of my flailing hands,
and wrapped your arms around my waist
to steady me, you said.
But now, I'm stumbling through the internet,
looking at pictures of you and them.
And I waver,
As I imagine you with her, and me here alone with my phone.
You said
You were busy,
Which is why there was no reply.
But why can't
You be busy
With me?
O fast day that trembles at the sight of Moon -
when will your warm arms bend again
the night's thick armor
that shades the world of joyous muse?
 
It is most facetious in its illusion,
that renegade of pale indifference,
when daylight dwindles and leaves more to imagine
than can be seen with naked eye.
 
Beneath the gaze of Her taunting face,
people do not walk as done in light -
suddenly, trudging and stumbling are hip style.
Faces covered in guilt, remorse, fatigue -
all the things Sun can wash away with a simple,
lucid grin.
 
If brightest bright were set ablaze amidst the night,
would people be plucked from this false sanctuary
which darkness so convincingly provides?
Then many a Lost could be freed;
if only to see clearly through effervescent
haze.
 
O blessed Sun!
With your arousal, Truth and Freedom will also renew -
until again that blank stare casts its malevolent glow on
Delusion.
Prose from a street-lit bench.
Cné Aug 2017

Cné
I believe in love...
In a blink of an eye, a life goes by
extinguished in the end.
And all that's done returns to dust.
No omen can portend.
Yet love lives on, infecting all
and never really dies
It goes beyond the realm of man
to live in fragrant skies.
And on the spacious sea of clouds,
it waits to find a port.
And then it anchors in a soul
to caper and cavort.

Traveler
Perhaps
In the emotional beginning
When head was yet held high
Stumbling through clouds
Of bright blurry skies
Love was a foolish quest
Of paralyzing highs
And now you're telling me
Love can never die?

Cné
Translucent,
the clouds we've sailed
and golden sunsets made
Kisses that we could have had
while watching rainbows fade.
Alas, a life's too short to spend
in fathomless regret.
Perhaps the wheel will turn again
another lifetime yet.
And so, my love
the voyage goes on,
to "golden years"?
We'll see.
Until
the other side reveals
what shall become of "we".

Traveler
Indeed
A dangerous theory
I can't imagine
Love roaming free
The source of all misery
Another invisible ghost
Possessing unaware host
Surely
Love is the blood we bleed
All across time and history
Love is more than a mere key
More than a want
Love is a need...


Cné  
Traveler Tim


Cné Sep 2017
Long lines looped the carousel
the first time you gazed my eye,
mounted on that chestnut mare,
grasped tight to the reigns up high.

I see his face around the bend,
a corn dog in his hand.
Locking eyes as I rise. I blush,
above the crowd he stands.
  
Light flickers, mouths water
delicate contoured lips laugh. I smile.
The music hesitates along with my breath.
I think I'll be staying awhile.

Bewildered and a little dizzy,
I dismount with a giggle.
I lick my dry lips, dreamily,
hoping he is single.

With the wind, a light mist blows.
I can see her slowly get wet,
stumbling she falls my way.
I'm excited, this day isn't over yet

Drip, drip, drip upon my face,
anxiously, I turn to hurry.
In my haste, he catches my waist
swallowing... I fall covertly.

Lips moisten, I pull her near
a kiss, slipped, tongues twirl,
wanton whispers whisked away,
drenched deep passion's unfurl.

A stranger's kiss upon my lips
beneath the dreary skies.
Soaking wet, I'm still on fire
He caught me by surprise.

A stranger's kiss upon my lips
beneath the queching skies.
Heaven sent, a burning desire;
she, such a welcomed surprise.
A collaboration with TSPoerty.
In honor of the State Fair of Texas opening day ... tomorrow.
https://hellopoetry.com/TS_Poetry/
Thanks for the ride Tim!
rebecca suzanne Dec 2014
When I was little my mother put me in several ballet classes in hopes to bring some grace to my stumbling gait.

I grew up walking on eggshells, wobbling to keep my balance on a tightrope that never really ended.

 My instructor pinched my thighs and shook her bony finger at me every tuesday and thursday for three and a half years.

4 am, I'm still tiptoeing around the creaks in the stairs as if anyone would notice an empty bed.

 This Christmas I came across the broken reminents of the ballerina ornaments my younger sister used to play with.

I never did master the delicate posture I was expected to adopt. My feet fell a bit too heavy, I suppose, on the ice tonight.

I'm not cold anymore, just exhausted from attempting to balance the wrong things for too long.

My life is flashing before my eyes, but all I see is a younger version of myself practicing Grand Battements on thin ice while everyone slept.
Cory Ellis Jun 2013
Hey guys. This isn't truly a poem but a paper I wrote for English class. I wanted to share this view with people and this is the only vehicle I knew to use. So here it is. I hope you enjoy it.
-------------------------------------------------------------­--------------------------------------------------


The amplifiers were turned up to ten. The young and fresh crowd looked at us with anticipation.

What were they waiting for? As the music began I noticed the subtle movements and growing tension in

the crowd. Men shook their heads and we shook ours in a violent duet between the crowd and

performer. Women and men flailed their limbs as they awaited the ******. We knew when it was

coming; they did not. When we decided to let it all go I witnessed something crazy! There was a brief

pause in the music and when it began again we kicked it into overdrive. We shook our heads with a

more frantic pace. We jumped about like madmen. The crowd erupted; it became its own entity. You

could feel the heat and power of this new creature. We were locked in a violent psychic-sphere of

crazed young teens and when the ****** was over there seemed to be a sense of relief and happiness

in the crowd. Had my after school hobby become a healing agent, even if only temporary, in society?

This papers purpose is an attempt at piecing together the phenomena of catharsis by merging

philosophy, psychology, history and spirituality.



First, to understand the psychology of catharsis we must think back to the roots of this behavior. Since

human life has existed we’ve formed crowds for various reasons. The first reason held the sole purpose

of protection. Tribes of people, men as hunters and women as gatherers, teamed up for the benefit of

human survival. Erich Fromm says that “the meaning of life is not to be found in its fullest unfolding but

in social service and social duties; that the development, freedom, and happiness of the individual is

subordinate or even irrelevant in comparison to the welfare of the state.”(Fromm, 1947, page 51) This

states that a crowd is actually very necessary to the function of human life. The second reason crowds

gathered was in form of revel, shamanistic healing and worship of deities (Ehrenreich, 30). Men and

woman would often enter trances, speak in tongues and become involved in a collective ecstasy while in

worship of their God. In later years, politics, entertainment and rebellion or protest was a main factor in

the gathering of people (Ehrenreich, 102). People gathered at Festivals that were in the midst of being

suppressed and would dance in mockery of their Kings or leaders.



What exactly is catharsis? Catharsis is a purging of emotional tension brought out in a crowd through

the viewing of a tragedy or tragic play. In the article “The Power of Catharsis” Kearny says the following

More specifically he (Aristotle) defined

the function of catharsis as 'purgation of pity and fear'. This comes

about, he explains, whenever the dramatic imitation of certain actions

arouses pity and fear in order to provide an outlet for pity and fear.

The recounting of experience through the formal medium of plot,

fiction or spectacle permits us to repeat the past forward so to speak.

And this very act of creative repetition allows for a certain kind of

pleasure or release. In the play of narrative re-creation we are invited

to revisit our lives — through the actions and personas of others — so

as to live them otherwise. We discover a way to give a future to

the past. (Kearny 1)

I figure that, even though he states that it is a purgation of pity and fear, it could also be involved with

many other suppressed emotions. Take my introduction for example. These kids were not releasing

pity and fear, they were releasing their angst! They were releasing their desire for competition.

They were making up for the violent feelings of agression they felt in their body that had been

suppressed by society for so long! They were revolting! Could catharsis also be used to purge other

emotions as well such as ****** suppression or communicative issues?





How would one come about actually attempting this catharsis that I speak of? We need to first look at

some ways in which people have controlled crowds in the past and realize that crowds form by

themselves but often look for leadership due to what Nietzche called that “herd mentality.”

In the article “Seducing the Crowd” by Urs Staheli it mentions that repetition is a key factor in beginning

to control the crowd. (Staheli, 69) This means that through repetition you can get the crowd to side with

your beliefs. The crowd could begin to think about what your suggesting and potentially be swayed by

the other people that are now following your ideas. It could also be repetition of body movements as

well. What better vehicle is there to sway a crowd than music? It’s repetitive in instrumental and lyrical

form!



Another way to “******” a crowd is to act like a madman! Specifically how I stumbled upon this in

the first phenomena place.

The leader himself is possessed and hypnotized by the ideas

and visions he holds, obsessed to such an extent that he cannot rationally exercise

control over the crowd. Instead, he devotes himself to fascinating the

crowd by more ecstatic means.8 He often resembles a madman but fascinates

by the mere power of his determination. What distinguishes the leader from

the rest of the crowd is his will alone, not any particular intellectual capacity

or a superior morality. (Staheli, 68)

The theory is that through mythological story telling or acting tragically and in a spectacle, we can

actually release negative emotions and potentially even heal neuroses or psychic ailments. Later in the

article he goes on to say that a shaman was actually documented to have cured a woman with a blocked

birth canal and in labor by telling her a story about a warrior trying to exit a cave that had monsters on

the outside trying to get in.

The function of a shaman is to heal his tribe. He uses drugs or plants to change his state of mind and

then by going over to the other side of reality he invokes spirits that help to heal.

In the séance, the shaman led. A sensuous panic, deliberately evoked through drugs, chants,

dancing, hurls the shaman into trance. Changed voice; convulsive movement. He acts like a

madman. These professional hysterics, chosen precisely for their psychotic leaning, were once

esteemed. They mediated between man and spirit world. Their mental travels formed the crux

of the religious life of the tribe. (Morrison 1967 pg. 71)

This shows an ecstatic crowd dancing and chanting while one man acts out a tragic spectacle. Through

this spectacle the shaman acts like a madman. This causes wild emotions within the crowd and allows it

to release their built up and suppressed emotions. Also, the dance and chants bring them to a feeling of

unity and oneness!



One may not believe in the spiritual shaman because of their own beliefs about God and religion. Some

may not believe in the other world that parallels our own.  It is a skeptical concept without a doubt and

there are probably many people who disagree with the legitimacy of the shaman. Is there a way that we

could think of the phenomena in a psychological sense rather than strictly spiritual? The answer lies in

Carl Jung’s theory of the unconscious mind and dream therapy as well as in Nietzche’s philosophy on art

and aesthetics.  



Carl Jung believed that there is a conscious mind and an unconscious mind. The conscious mind is the

everyday mind that occurs in waking life. It is rational and helps us survive. The unconscious mind can

be found in dreams or whenever you experience a déjà vu (Jung 1964 21).  He also believed that through

the study of dreams you could heal certain aspects of your psyche that have been altered by neuroses.

Symbols and archetypes make up dreams and the unconscious, and often you will find that archetypes

appear in the form  of people. Jung believes that through living in society that men and women have lost

touch with their feminine or masculine characteristics depending on their gender. Dreams can help us

get back into union with these lost roles through connecting us with our anima(female) or animus

(male) through symbols in our dreams or unconscious minds. Jung wrote that when society was

formed people took on roles and caused a dissociation in their psyche and caused a duality rather

than a unity when they suppressed one side of their mind.  He mentioned that at all times the

unconscious mind is connecting us on a psychic level.



How does this tie into shamans and catharsis? It seems like something completely different all together

right? My theory is that the shaman or crowd leader brings forth a forgotten union of the masculine and

feminine forces in the universe. Nietzche believed that there are two polar forces that are natural in this

world and in art. These forces are given the names of deities in his book “The Birth of Tragedy.”

The first is the Apollonian force that is masculine. This force in art governs form and dreams. The

Apollonian artist directly takes ideas from his dreams and brings them to life whether it is in form

sculpture or poetry. Apollo appears through an oracle often in tragedy or in visions of the waking life.

The second force is the Dionysian which is feminine. This force governs intoxication, revel and ecstasy.

Dionysian artists are improvisers and dancers and are usually tragic figures. Nietzche believed there are

three different types of artists: Apollonian, Dionysian and the fusion of both (Nietzche 1872 14). This

latter artist is what I believe the shaman is.



Through connecting these polarizing forces he fixes the psychic neuroses in his own mind. He becomes

a unified artist, or a magician of duality. The shaman, as stated above, takes drugs to intoxicate himself.

Often the drug of choice is wine or alcohol though it could be hallucinogenic drugs as well. This tied with

repetitive revel is the Dionysian side of the spectrum and also helps draw the crowd’s attention through

spectacle and repetition. Everybody is ecstatic and experiencing the collective vibrations of the crowd.

Through his intoxication he is able to go into the unconscious mind and produce dream symbols in

reality! The crowd follows the leader into this unconscious mind and brings back forgotten wisdom of

mythology and archetypes. This is the Apollonian side of the spectrum because it deals with the

unconscious mind and dream images. It also could be this “other world” that traditional shamans speak

of. Now the psychic duality is merged and a tie is formed between the masculine and feminine forces of

nature! People feel at one with themselves and the crowd and the societal suppression is vanished

briefly. All the neuroses caused by the suppression fades away in the ecstatic revel. This is the appeal of

the rock concert. Notice how many leading figures of rock bands have androgynous features and

shamanistic nature. This is because they have fixed the psychic neuroses in their own mind and become

at peace with the masculine and feminine duality of their psyche.



Stumbling upon this phenomena in my rebellious youth was very eye opening. Ever since I have been  

very excited about this theory and I’ve been trying to piece it together. It seems to be coming along

further and further in my study of this. What exactly this ancient wisdom is; I don’t entirely know. I

do know that I have witnessed this in reality and the subject is interesting and fascinating. My theory

still has a lot of work before it is completed but I think that within this article I’ve given a decent

amount of history about the topic as well as my own thoughts. Whether this phenomena is true or

not, we can leave that up to the psychologists and philosophers to decide, though I think many may

agree. Either way, catharsis surely does exist and it is a fun way of entertainment as well as a

therapeutic option for many stressed out individuals out there
the sky a silver
dissonance by the correct
fingers of April
resolved

              into a
clutter of trite jewels

now like a moth with stumbling

wings flutters and flops along the
grass collides with trees and
houses and finally,
butts into the river
Cyril Blythe Nov 2012
I followed Delvos down the trail until we could see the mouth of the mine. The life and energy of the surrounding birches and sentential pines came to a still and then died as we left the trees shelter behind and walked closer, closer. The air was cold and dark and damp and smelled of mold and moths. Delvos stepped into the darkness anyways.
“Well, girl, you coming or aren’t you?”
I could see his yellowed tobacco teeth form into a smile as I stepped out of the sun. It was still inside. The canary chirped in its cage.
“This tunnel is just the mouth to over two hundred others exactly like it. Stay close. Last thing I need this month is National Geographic on my *** for losing one of their puppet girls.”
“Delvos, ****. I have two masters degrees.” I pulled my mousey hair up into a tight ponytail. “I’ve experienced far more fatal feats than following a canary in a cave.”
He rolled his eyes. “Spare me.” He trotted off around the corner to the left, whistling some Louis Armstrong song.
“I survived alone in the jungles of Bolivia alone for two months chasing an Azara’s Spinetail. I climbed the tallest mountain in Nepal shooting Satyr Tragopans along the cliff faces. In Peru I…” Suddenly I felt the weight of the darkness. I lost track of his lantern completely. I stopped, my heartbeat picked up, and I tried to remind myself of what I had done in Peru. The mine was quiet and cold. I wiped my clammy, calloused hands on my trail pants and took a depth breath.

In through the nose. Out through the mouth. This is nothing. I followed a Diurnal Peruvian Pygmy-Owl across the gravel tops of the Andes Mountains, no light but the Southern Cross and waning moon above. I am not scared of darkness. I am not scared of darkness.
I stopped to listen. Behind me I could hear the wind cooing at the mouth of the mine.
Taunting? No. Reminding me to go forward. Into the darkness.
I shifted my Nikon camera off my shoulder and raised the viewfinder to my eyes, sliding the lens cap into my vest pocket. This routine motion, by now, had become as fluid as walking. I stared readily through the dark black square until I saw reflections from the little red light on top that blinked, telling me the flash was charged. I snapped my finger down and white light filled the void in front of me. Then heavy dark returned. I blinked my eyes attempting to rid the memories of the flash etched, red, onto my retina. I clicked my short fingernails through buttons until the photo I took filled the camera screen. I learned early on that having short fingernails meant more precise control with the camera buttons. I zoomed in on the picture and scrolled to get my bearings of exactly what lay ahead in the narrow mine passageway. As I scrolled to the right I saw Delvos’ boot poking around the tunnel that forked to the left.
Gottcha.
I packed up the camera, licked my drying lips, and stepped confidently into the darkness.

When I first got the assignment in Vermont I couldn’t have been more frustrated. Mining canaries? Never had I ever ‘chased’ a more mundane bird. Nonetheless, when Jack Reynolds sends you on a shoot you don’t say no, so I packed up my camera bag and hoped on the next plane out of Washington.
“His name is John Delvos.” Jack had said as he handed me the manila case envelope. He smiled, “You’re leaving on Tuesday.”
“Yes sir.”
“Don’t look so smug, Lila. This may not be the most exotic bird you’ve shot but the humanity of this piece has the potential to be a cover story. Get the shots, write the story.”
I opened the envelope and read the assignment details in the comfort of my old pajamas back at my apartment later that night.
John Delvos has lived in rural Vermont his entire life. His family bred the canaries for the miners of the Sheldon Quarry since the early twenties. When “the accident” happened the whole town shut down and the mines never reopened. . There were no canaries in the mines the day the gas killed the miners. The town blamed the Delvos family and ran them into the woods. His mother died in a fire of some sort shortly before Delvos and his father retreated into the Vermont woods. His father built a cabin and once his father died, Delvos continued to breed the birds. He currently ships them to other mining towns across the country. The question of the inhumanity of breeding canaries for the sole purpose of dying in the mines so humans don’t has always been controversial. Find out Delvos’ story and opinions on the matter. Good luck, Lila.
I sighed, accepting my dull assignment and slipped into an apathetic sleep.


After stumbling through the passageway while keeping one hand on the wall to the left, I found the tunnel the picture had revealed Delvos to be luring in. Delvos reappeared behind the crack of his match in a side tunnel not twenty yards in front of me
“Do you understand the darkness now, Ms. Rivers?” He relit the oily lantern and picked back up the canary cage. “Your prestigious masters degrees don’t mean **** down here.”. He turned his back without another word. I followed deeper into the damp darkness.
“Why were there no canaries in the mine on, you know, that day?” The shadows of the lantern flickered against the iron canary cage chained on his hip and the yellow bird hopped inside.
“I was nine, Ms. Rivers. I didn’t understand much at the time.” We turned right into the next tunnel and our shoes crunched on jagged stones. All the stones were black.
“But surely you understand now?”
The canary chirped.

When I first got to Sheldon and began asking about the location of the Delvos’ cabin you would have thought I was asking where the first gate to hell was located. Mothers would smile and say, “Sorry, Miss, I can’t say,” then hurriedly flock their children in the opposite direction. After two hours of polite refusals I gave up. I spent the rest of the first day photographing the town square. It was quaint; old stone barbershops surrounded by oaks and black squirrels, a western-themed whiskey bar, and a few greasy spoon restaurants. I booked a room in the Walking Horse Motel for Wednesday night, determined to get a good night’s sleep and defeat this town’s fear of John Delvos the following day.
My room was a tiny one bed square with no TV. Surprise, surprise. At least I had my camera and computer to entertain myself. I reached into the side of my camera bag, pulled out my Turkish Golds and Macaw-beak yellow BIC, and stepped out onto the dirt in front of my motel door and lit up. The stars above stole all the oxygen surrounding me. They were dancing and smiling above me and I forgot Delvos, Jack, and all of Sheldon except its sky. Puffing away, I stepped farther and farther from my door and deeper into the darkness of Vermont night. The father into the darkness the more dizzying the star’s dancing became.
“Ma’am? Everything okay?”
Startled, I dropped my cigarette on the ground and the ember fell off. “I’m sorry, sir. I was just, um, the stars…” I snuffed out the orange glow in the dirt with my boot and extended my hand, “Lila Rivers, and you are?”
“Ian Benet. I haven’t seen you around here before, Ms. Rivers. Are you new to town?” He traced his fingers over a thick, graying mustache as he stared at me.
“I’m here for work. I’m a bird photographer and journalist for National Geographic. I’m looking for John Delvos but I’m starting to think he’s going to be harder to track than a Magpie Robin.”
Ian smiled awkwardly, shivered, then began to fumble with his thick jacket’s zipper. I looked up at the night sky and watched the stars as they tiptoed their tiny circles in the pregnant silence. Then, they dimmed in the flick of a spark as Ian lit up his wooden pipe. It was a light-colored wood, stained with rich brown tobacco and ash. He passed me his matches, smiling.
“So, Delvos, eh?” He puffed out a cloud of leather smelling smoke toward the stars. “What do you want with that old *******? Don’t tell me National Geographic is interested in the Delvos canaries.”
I lit up another stick and took a drag. “Shocking, right?”
“Actually, it’s about time their story is told.” Benet walked to the wooden bench to our left and patted the seat beside him. I walked over. “The Delvos canaries saved hundreds of Sheldonian lives over the years. But the day a crew went into the mines without one, my father came out of the ground as cold as when we put him back into it in his coffin.”
I sat in silence, unsure what to say. “Mr. Benet, I’m so sorry…”
“Please, just Ian. My father was the last Mr. Benet.”
We sat on the wooden bench, heat leaving our bodies to warm the dead wood beneath our legs. I shivered; the star’s dance suddenly colder and more violent.
“Delvos canaries are martyrs, Ms. Rivers. This whole town indebted to those tiny yellow birds, but nobody cares to remember that anymore.”
“Can you tell me where I can find Mr. Delvos and his, erm, martyrs?” The ember of my second cigarette was close to my pinching fingertips.
“Follow me.” Ian stood up and walked to the edge of the woods in front of us. We crunched the dead pine needles beneath our feet, making me aware of how silent it was. Ian stopped at a large elm and pointed. “See that yellow notch?” he asked. Sure enough, there was a notch cut and dyed yellow at his finger’s end. “If you follow true north from this tree into the woods you’ll find this notch about every fifty yards or so. Follow the yellow and it’ll spit you out onto the Delvos property.”
“Thank you, Ian. I really can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am.
“You don’t have to.” He knocked the ash out of his pipe against the tree. “Just do those birds justice in your article. Remember, martyrs. Tell old Delvos Ian Benet sends his regards.” He turned and walked back to the motel and I stood and watched in silence. It was then I realized I hadn’t heard a single bird since I got to Sheldon. The star’s dance was manic above me as I walked back to my room and shut the door.

The canary’s wings and Delvos stopped. “This is a good place to break our fast. Sit.”
I sat obediently, squirming around until the rocks formed a more comfortable nest around my bony hips. We had left for the mines as the stars were fading in the vermillion Vermont sky that morning and had been walking for what seemed like an eternity. I was definitely ready to eat. He handed me a gallon Ziploc bag from his backpack filled with raisins, nuts, various dried fruits, and a stiff piece of bread. I attacked the food like a raven.
“I was the reason no canaries entered the mines that day, Ms. Rivers.”
Delvos broke a piece of his bread off and wrapped it around a dried piece of apricot, or maybe apple. I was suddenly aware of my every motion and swallowed, loudly. I crinkled into my Ziploc and crunched on the pecans I dug out, waiting.
“Aren’t you going to ask why?”
“I’m not a parrot, Mr. Delvos, I don’t answer expectedly on command. You’ll tell me if you want.” I stuffed a fistful of dried pears into my mouth.
Delvos chuckled and my nerves eased. “You’ve got steel in you, Ms. Rivers. I’ll give you that much.”
I nodded and continued cramming pears in my mouth.
“I was only nine. The canaries were my pets, all of them. I hated when Dad would send them into the mines to die for men I couldn’t give two ***** about. It was my birthday and I asked for an afternoon of freedom with my pets and Dad obliged. I was in the aviary with pocketfuls of sunflower-seeds. Whenever I threw a handful into the air above me, the air came to life with wings slashing yellow brushes and cawing songs of joy. It was the happiest I have ever been, wholly surrounded and protected by my friends. Around twelve thirty that afternoon the Sheriff pulled up, lights ablaze. The blue and red lights stilled my yellow sky to green again and that’s when I heard the shouting. He cuffed my Dad on the hood of the car and Mom was crying and pushing her fists into the sheriff’s chest. I didn’t understand at all. The Sheriff ended up putting Mom in the car too and they all left me in the aviary. I sat there until around four that afternoon before they sent anyone to come get me.”
Delvos took a small bite of his bread and chewed a moment. “No matter how many handfuls of seeds I threw in the air after that, the birds wouldn’t stir. They wouldn’t even sing. I think they knew what was happening.”
I was at a loss for words so and I blurted, “I didn’t see an aviary at your house…”
Delvos laughed. “Someone burnt down the house I was raised in the next week while we were sleeping. Mom died that night. The whole dark was burning with screams and my yellow canaries were orange and hot against the black sky. That’s the only night I’ve seen black canaries and the only night I’ve heard them scream.”
I swallowed some mixed nuts and they rubbed against my dry throat.
“They never caught the person. A week later Dad took the remainder of the birds and we marched into the woods. We worked for months clearing the land and rebuilding our lives. We spent most of the time in silence, except for the canary cries. When the house was finally built and the bird’s little coops were as well, Dad finally talked. The only thing he could say was “Canaries are not the same as a Phoenix, John. Not the same at all.”
We sat in silence and I found myself watching the canary flit about in its cage, still only visible by the lanterns flame. Not fully yellow, I realized, here in the mines but not fully orange either.

When I first walked onto John Delvos’ property on Thursday morning he was scattering feed into the bird coops in the front of his cabin. Everything was made of wood and still wet with the morning’s dew.
“Mr. Delvos?”
He spun around, startled, and walked up to me a little too fast. “Why are you here? Who are you?”
“My name is Lila Rivers, sir, I am a photographer and journalist for National Geographic Magazine and we are going to run an article on your canaries.”
“Not interested.”
“Please, sir, can I ask you just a few quick questions as take a couple pictures of your, erm, martyrs?”
His eyes narrowed and he walked up to me, studying my face with an intense, glowering gaze. He spit a mouthful of dip onto the ground without breaking eye contact. I shifted my camera bag’s weight to the other shoulder.
“Who told you to call them that?”
“I met Ian Benet last night, he told me how important your birds are to this community, sir. He sends his regards.”
Delvos laughed and motioned for me to follow as he turned his back. “You can take pictures but I have to approve which ones you publish. That’s my rule.”
“Sir, it’s really not up to me, you see, my boss, Jack Reynolds, is one of the editors for the magazine and he...”
“Those are my rules, Ms. Rivers.” He turned and picked back up the bucket of seed and began to walk back to the birds. “You want to interview me then we do it in the mine. Be back here at four thirty in the morning.”
“Sir…?”
“Get some sleep, Ms. Rivers. You’ll want to be rested for the mine.” He turned, walked up his wooden stairs, and closed the door to his cabin.
I was left alone in the woods and spent the next hour snapping pictures of the canaries in their cages. I took a couple pictures of his house and the surrounding trees, packed up my camera and trekked back to my motel.

“You finished yet?” Delvos stood up. The mine was dark, quiet, and stagnant. I closed the Ziploc and stuffed the bag, mainly filled with the raisins I had sifted through, into my pocket.
Delvos grunted and the canary flapped in its cage as he stood again and, swinging the lantern, rounded another corner. The path we were on began to take a noticeable ***** downward and the moisture on the walls and air multiplied.  
The lantern flickered against the moist, black stones, sleek and piled in the corners we past. The path stopped ahead at a wall of solid black and brown Earth.
The canary chirped twice.
It smelled of clay and mildew and Delvos said, “Go on, touch it.”
I reached my hand out, camera uselessly hanging like a bat over my shoulder. The rock was cold and hard. It felt dead.
The canary was fluttering its wings in the cage now, chirping every few seconds.
“This is the last tunnel they were digging when the gas under our feet broke free from hell and killed those men.”
Delvos hoisted the lantern above our heads, illuminatin
Kiernan Norman Jul 2014
We didn’t bloom together the way we should have. We never eyed each other across neat soil; both self-conscious and self-righteous as we sipped the sun and, in quiet bursts, raced to touch the sky.  

We weren't planted by gentle hands in soft plots with room to stretch our limbs and shield our eyes, nor to bud in peace and thrive and find identity in both our own bold blossoms and as a pulsing piece of the whole lavish garden.

We didn't bloom because we erupted.
We running-start-swan-dived into stale dirt and were too close from the very beginning.
We didn’t sprout up straight; we snaked and lurked and left no bit of earth untouched by our vibrant, stencil **** fingers declaring ourselves alive.

By harvest we were tangled beyond repair.
By harvest I didn't know me from you and I liked it.

To be so entwined is lovely but depends on a balance
we could only begin to grasp.
To expand but not uproot requires perfect synchronicity maybe not beyond our years but certainly beyond our maturity. We spread out our emotions like tarot cards on a towel in the grass and reflected in your sunglasses I met the silent pieces of me.
In colorful, grim drawings those quiet, ugly bits floated up veins and settled under ribs.
They stayed silent. Until they began to scream.

And you and I- we didn't have the words;
not our own words that we earned and burned while stumbling across months and plains,
tripping over potholes and finding our feet quicker each time.
We had place-holders words we sang back and forth and splashed around and bathed in.
The words we spoke were profound and cardboard.
We were just reading lines, sharing identical scripts and an ache to be seen
so deep and desperate it was sinful.

We maybe shared the humid cling of regret; which hung heavy in stuck-air auditoriums,
it beaded sweat echoed, rolling down spines and turning blood to sticky wax as we whispered in the corner about the things we could say aloud while our minds never left the things we wouldn't dare.

We were mostly ill-equipped.
We joked about hurricanes
We didn't survive the first storm.

I want you to know you really hurt my feelings.
I want you to know you're the first guy I've given my feelings to hurt.
I want you to know I was terrible towards the end.
And I know that. But you gave up on me

You gave up on me at the exact moment I was giving up on myself.
Even as my tongue stung metallic and veins pulsed so hot and loud
through my eardrum that I felt I would explode- it was clean.
It was all remarkably clean.
and sterile.
There were no explosions.
No shattered plates, ****** knuckles or blown out voices
that scratched and rose in time with the sun.

Just a quick slash of rope-
an anchor cut loose and left to sink;
our secrets were set free to
rust over and collect algae.
We were suddenly off the hook
for any vulnerability we might have spilled
on each other in our fits of laughter
and hours of sleep.
A deep sigh of relief.
A deeper sigh of desolation.


The moment exists in sad yellow lighting that must have been added in restrospect.
I tweaked the floor of my memory too:
at that moment I was not wearing flipflops on linoleum- but sinking, slowly and barefoot, into chilly riverbed mud as it turned to ice.

I opened the door and there you stood.
You knew I had been crying and I didn’t try to hide it
it was too exhausting- running on fumes.

And I did expect something from you,
anything from you, that might dull the singed-dagger plunging
stab to my chest with each breath I gulped and spat .
I wanted anything that might reel me in from the cliffs edge
where my thoughts had carried me on horseback.

But you had nothing.
I watched your eyes glaze over my swollen lips and pinced, glassy eyes.
You threw back the melted, Picasso-esque mask where my face once was,
like a quick, sharp shot of warm whiskey.
Careful to avoid eye contact you slipped ‘**** this,’
under your breath and started to reach for my hand.

You started to, but then after a second suspended
you let your arm fall back to your body.
Head lowered, jaw clenched and you turned and fled with a new heaviness pushing down on your posture.
It looked painful and adult.
It looked like you finally felt the weight of our season.
And watching you go I shrank in lighter and thicker because I felt it too.

We are not going to get a happy ending-
not with each other and not right now.
Maybe not ever.
And that will have to do.
(Though I will miss your hand in mine.
I hope one day you'll remember being tangled with me and it will make you laugh before you cringe because I didn't like to be alone.)

If I wanted to be alone I would just go home.
Light
Color yourself indigo
Go on i dare you too
Sad but laughing buckets
Cleaning the floor with light

Oxy clean you are something
Modern poetic verbal stumbling
Left only to throw ***** shirts
Into the closet - hurt my feelings

See right through you
Tommy Randell Nov 2014
The music was spilling out of us
The Guinness was going in
Terry’s octave mandolin
Was riding out in front of him

Like a boat tethered in a tidal surge
Like a young colt backing off the rein
And for each unexamined wreck of a song
He’d let out a little more sail

We were flying

Upstairs in The Taffes Inn
Was an oven of chords
Songs about the famine and
Ireland’s tragedy of wars

And I answered
With an ash-pit tongue of a poem
Showing our Yorkshire wounds
Made by London’s bonds

We were crying

Telling of Fishing, mining and grief
That having no say was having no meat
Coming stumbling and shaking to our common regard
To a Dublin breakfast, a mixed grill of the heart

Where we agreed to our passions
And our histories’ concepts
Where we sat and said nothing when saying nothing was best
That one sausage alone is a very deep subject

We were frying.
One sausage etc is a quote from Ciaran Carson's book on Irish Music and culture 'Last Night's Fun' - A must must read!
May 9, 2012, 7:01:02 PM by ~OmegaWolfOfWinter
Journals / Personal




The rivers of winter ice had melted with spring sunshine's awakening and the noises of the forest announced the awakening of the fauna. a young fox stretched her long legs and fluffed up her tail as she yawned awake. this winter had been a lonely one for her, as she did not have a mate. throughout the winter she had felt the tingling feelings of her ****** urges creep between her legs and she moaned slightly as she felt them creeping there again.  she stepped slowly out of her den and took a cool breath of the spring air, bringing her the scents of the amorous flowers and the frolicking prey. she watched two birds in courting flight above har and she sighed at her loneliness. the fox hung her head low and walked softly forward. at some point she closed her eyes and yet kept walking, a few tears of longing falling from her eyes. the tingling urges grew stronger and she fought to keep them at bay. she kept walking a bit, aimlessly, though. she cried out as she stumbled over a heavy rock.
She tumbled into the nearby brook and felt a sharp stone cut her right hind leg. she clambered on to the bank, shivering and soaking wet with the chilled water. she attempted to stand and felt a fiery sting to her leg. she looked and saw a shallow **** marring her orange fur. "ow... ow..." she whimpered as she walked on. as the sun peaked over her, she felt her stomach's pleading for sustenance and she groaned. she could faintly smell a rabbit nearby and crouched low, going over how to stalk her prey. she sniffed for it and it seemed to be close, on the other side of a group of trees. she flanked around as best she could and spotted the furball. she licked her lips hungrily and pounced. the rabbit was dead in an instant as she tore its throat out. she chomped at it once and then felt a feeling of dread. she gulped once and heard a wolf growl nearby. i'm wounded... i can't avoid it now.
.
she thought. she heard the wolf running toward her and was bowled over by it. when she stopped
Rolling she was on her back. looking up at the wolf, a young grey, white chested wolf, at the beginning of his manhood. he snarled at his prey as she whimpered beneath him. then to her surprise, he sniffed at her and tilted his head, the tenseness of the hunt gone from his yellow eyes. the wolf took a step back and looked her up and down, stopping as he saw something. he spoke softly, almost caringly, "you are female... and in heat... i apologize for interrupting your meal."
the fox looked at him curiously, "You...?"
he glanced at her and finished her thought. "...do not harm females. it is a code of honor i choose to live by."
she sniffed at him, "you have no mate, no lover."
his breath caught. "nor do you, young fox, lest he'd be satiating your body's desires, and his as well."
she felt the tingling between her legs again and attempted to say something, but was stopped. the wolf said, "nor do i wish to take advantage of females either."
The fox replied suggestively, "you spared my life, surely theres some way i could repay you, handsome wolf."
the wolf looked at her, eyes dilated and his breathing rough. he shook his head, "no.. i couldnt. its not my place."
she could feel the urges burning inside her, she wanted to release them, she wanted this wolf to release her. "chivalrous, i see. then, dear wolf, alleviate my longing, my pain, and i shall alleviate your own."
the wolf took a step closer, his own longing feeding his fire. "beautiful fox... your offer intigues me... you- you are wounded..." she looked and saw her leg still bleeding. "let me aide you, dear fox." he took a few steps and lay beside her, licking her wound. with each lick, the pain receded and was replaced by a wave of pleasant ache. the bleeding stopped and he stopped licking, for the moment. he sniffed her, his cold nose brushing the swollen flesh, and as it quivered between her legs, he knew she was ready for him. "my den is close by, young fox."
She nuzzled against his chest and felt his heart pounding. she took his paw and pressed it against her own chest, letting him feel her heart. "you know we cant wait that long, here.. in this group of trees." she gestured to the spot a few feet away. the wolf quickly walked into the tangle of trees, followed by the fox. the wolf had hardly stepped inside the treeline before the fox began nudging at the furry bulge between his legs. "you're not quite ready yet, dear wolf." the wolf whimpered a few times as she licked at it, taking his smooth member in her mouth and enticing it with her tongue. once it was throbbing in its full glory, she licked one last time and said, "now you're ready." and raised herself in preparation for him. he got into position on top of her and with one paw she guided him inside her. she gasped as he stretched her a little. she glanced over her shoulder and
realized that he wasnt that much bigger than her. he looked nervous and she realized something,
This is his first time... mine too... lets make this memorable.. she experimented with different positions, and after finding her favorite, set about making this wolf howl.
the wolf ****** slowly at first, drawing out the ecstasy. only when she began to whimper amorously did he begin to ****** harder, faster. she joined him, as he pulled back, she leaned forward, leaving only his tip inside her. when he ******, she leaned back on him with a wet squish. the wolf's tongue lolled and his eyes were glazed over in sweet agony. he howled softly at first, and as the ****** came, he howled again, echoing with the fox's cries as the ecstasy reached its ****** and rocked their bodies. the wolf staggered slightly at the passionate waves of ******. he pulled out his member and looked at his mate. "come with me to my den, so we can sleep, dear fox." the fox looked at him and nodded, grateful.
* * *
The fox and the wolf walked quietly to his den, set inside a secluded cluster of trees. the den itself was set in the ground, like a cavern, just large enough for the two of them to lie down comfortably. "its going to get cold tonight," said the wolf. "we should... share body heat." he had a faint twinkle in his eyes as he glanced nervously at her. when she tilted her head to him, the wolf looked down at his paws. the fox licked his muzzle and laid down next to him. the wolf's grey fur was thick, and she was  already beginning to feel warmer. she felt the wolf's heart beat a little faster, and he curled around her. his furry tail wrapped around the fox and she purred slightly as she nuzzled him and rested her head on his foreleg. for a moment they lay there, eyes closed, listening to the others' breathing, when he whispered to her, "i never did catch your name, young fox."
she grinned at him, "my name's Sasha, the only fox in this forest. and what be your name, dear wolf?"
The wolf opened one eye slightly to look at her, "my name is Ronan, i'm the last wolf of my pack."
she held him in her gaze a few beats and replied, "i haven't seen many wolves 'round these parts, where do you come from, Ronan?"
the grey sighed and said, "Farther north, over the mountains and into ice country. the food became scarce and the pack withered away, all but me. i treveled over the hills and mountains, through forests and grassland, and i kept going, finally stopping here. what of you? you said yourself you were the only fox in this forest."
Sasha swished her tail back and forth for a moment before, "i was separated from my family during a blizzard. i- i couldn't see anything, and i couldn't hear anything over the wind. i wandered aimlessly in the whiteout, tripping and stumbling until i bumped into something big. then again, i was just a kit and everything was big to me, but i looked up and saw a pair of eyes looking at me. i was so scared the snow beneath me turned yellow.
The monster bent over and picked me up by the scruff of my neck and carried me for a long time. i was so exhausted i fell asleep in its grip. when i woke up i was in a chilly den. i looked and realized that the monster had been a snow-white she-wolf. she sat at the enterance to the den and kept looking outside, waiting for something. when the snowstorm cleared out, she turned to me and said, 'little fox. have you a family?' i shook my head as i realized they were gone. from then on, the wolf raised me and taught me how to survive. then one day a few years ago... she was gone..."
Ronan was watching the fox as she told the story. "i'm sorry."
"don't be, ronan. ever since she left ive been alone. no fox to breed me, no one for a lover. until you came along..."
ronan licked her muzzle, "no need for loneliness now." sasha smiled and was soon asleep, warmed by her lover.
*
The sun rose and shone brightly into the entrance of the den the next morning, waking sasha from her slumber. she yawned and felt around for the grey. she felt nothing. she stood up and looked around the empty den. did he... leave me? a single tear fell when she imagined the possibility. "no.... please no..." she whimpered. her breath caught as she heard something rustling the grass outside the den. sasha shrank back and hid behind her tail, peeking over it slightly. she could hear her heartbeat in her ears and feel it rising in her throat as the rustling got closer and closer. she squeaked, "who... who's there?"
she flinched as a dark mass blocked the sunlight, its shadow stretching across the wall. the mass stepped slowly forward and sasha shut her eyes tight, fearing what might come next. "sasha?" it was ronan. "what's the matter?"
she gasped at him before rushing forward and burying her muzzle in his chest fur. "i thought you'd left me..."
with a paw, ronan stroked the fur on her back. "i'm a wolf, ***. loyalty and chivalry are the only things i know." she buried herself deeper in his fur and scolded herself for not realizing that. "i caught breakfast, i figured you'd be hungry after i interrupted your meal yesterday." she looked behind him and saw a small pile of ****** rabbits. sasha licked her lips hungrily. "its all yours, dear fox." she looked gratefully at Ronan before pouncing on the pile of carcasses, tearing into one and bloodying her maw. ronan watched her with pleasant  affection. the den was filled with the sounds of flesh being rendered from bone and the snapping of Sasha's teeth. she feasted upon the **** until she could eat no more, her belly now filled. two rabbits still lay uneaten, and ronan devoured them slowly, savoring the ****** meat as it slipped down his gullet. sasha lay nuzzled up against him while he ate, toying at his tail and
otherwise teasing at him. he gave her a look of amusement and somehow got into a game of tag with her.
He chased her around the den and she dodged his paw as he reached for her. when he did finally touch her, sasha dove between his legs and poked his furry belly. leaving him with a dumbfounded expression on his face. he then chased sasha outside and they continued their game within the cluster of trees around them. sasha laughed, a liquid smooth, crystal clear laugh. ronan watched her jump around him, the sun's rays catching her fine orange fur in such a way that it seemed almost like fire. he watched her a moment and loosed a soft howl. she's so beautiful... he thought.
* *
Haydn Swan Oct 2014
In front of the mirror doing my hair,
It’s all in the prep work, don’t despair,
Soon be time for the big event,
all this grooming is time well spent,

walk like a robot, keep a straight face,
don’t want a single hair out of place,
grab the phone, yes this is the spot,
set it all up for the perfect shot,

try to look natural, find the right pose,
hide the blemish that’s on my nose,
impossible angles, arm muscles ache,
the phone in my hand is starting to shake,

follow the light, keep stumbling back,
I think I’m having a panic attack,
all this stress is really no fun,
but a click of the button and the deed is done !
Mateuš Conrad Jan 2017
i can't believe i came across this today,
but i am certain did...
   an experience so vague i couldn't believe,
i actually experienced dyslexia,
call it quasi call it pseduo... but it was very
much akin... from the book's narrative...
but not from the footnotes, i read the footnotes
at perfect cognitive speed, but perhaps
returning to the narrative i did experience
a slack of the + (add) of how words are
dissected and quickly put back together...
  yes, that other arithmetic with very little
breathing room, yes, that thing without
a soul... the word... or god...
    i turned custard brain, fudge...
     i felt like watching the gymnastics at
the para-olympics... and if i was going for a cheap
joke / english black humor i'd probably
laugh at that... but since this is the most
perfect ideal, i can't only make that comparison.

and so it was, i sat there doing nothing productive,
nothing... counting sheep to encourage
day-dreaming...
       so i said: 'i'll read a book', like i might do
on the whim in my grandparent's house
(one of the many reasons i decided to be "canadian" -
and establish a firm belief in bilingualism -
since if i didn't speak the tribal tongue
i wouldn't be rummaging in my grandfather's
library... and stealing books from him...
  well, exporting them to england, where he said
on my last visit: your library is bigger than
mine, isn't? well... it can fill a double-bed
   and be stacked at about 300cm up...)
    maybe the fact that being immersed in the tribe:
polish on the radio, on the television,
the fact that i can be without the internet for
weeks on end and have no quick-canvas outlet for
my earned tongue is the reason i could read
Kraszewski's* Dei Ira / bozy gniew / god's wrath...
    (there is too much subtle differences between
capital iota and little-town lambda -
   or why iota had to have the dot above it, anyway) -
so dei ira looks better... which is why i'm
not orthodox about using capital instances all the time...
   what a whirlwind...
         but prior to that i was watching
a david jacoby film - love is the devil: study for
a portrait by francis bacon...
                                         and all i could think of:
what marvel, to have a **** shoved up your ***
and speak so beautifully...
  have such a vast array of narratives...
     i can only assume that experiencing **** ***
gives you the other man's **** shoved into
your mouth that acts like a tongue and speaks
      so many truths as could be possible,
as in Freudian dream: when a woman wears a hat...
a talking ****** on her head from slurping
at the vaginal grotto of another woman...
     such a marvel though, homosexuality, esp.
the type of homosexuality that has art to express
rather than a civil partnership, civil rights...
  i mean, i could watch this stuff for days and never
yawn or need to watch protests and marches...
  just the image of what is best described
   john william waterhouse's
   painting hypnos and thanatos...
      i can't help but see it like that...
         francis plays the female role, his model the evident
dominant male... and sure, francis having his
**** punctured for what could be best described
as diarhhea either side of the equator does so...
it's as if he is eloquent enough / intelligent to allow
this to happen, for another man to speak through
him somehow... the model's phallus in francis' ****
becomes the model's tongue in francis' mouth...
    which becomes the stage for hypnos and thanatos...
in that francis' tongue becomes a phallus in
the mind of the model: and it whispers him nightmares
in his sleep... a vicious cycle indeed...
           that's the homosexuality that's highly regarded
by me, not the confetti functional type that
    exploits science and social norms and can no longer
lend itself to art, to transcending the taboo...
      with homosexuality divorced from art...
i can't see anything profound by gays from now on...
i really can't... if there is no art in this deviant
love, no art is worth being expressed by this
once glorious realm that has grovelled into the gutter...
so let's start once more: with Onan!

and everyday i awake wake with only one identifiable
fear: will i not write a single verse as of today?
it's not a case of a single day encapsulating my
fear, but that that crux day: furthered into a silence
that can't compensate the act of writing with
anything, other than sleep... i just can't seem
to smarten up concerning this very rational phobia...
    and having said that: here is the incision mark
denoting an interlude, and how: what are originally
intended to be of enso quality, cannot
   stand up to the biological tick-tock of needing
the loo...
     and do i think o'keefe's music foundation
by children is so much better than the original
done by tool concerning the song forty six & two?
yes, yes i do... just look at the kid on the bass guitar,
the fact that bass guitar is allowed to state a layer
of cake just above drums to set the rhythm
means the rhythm guitar doesn't have to solipsistic
******* and scale the everest of solo...
   it can remain in the rhythm section,
actually be worth a rhythm,
   the guitar doesn't need to overload into a solo...
the vocals belong to that domain...
   as long as the bass guitar is allowed to be heard
(unlike in metallica) - then i must be tone deaf!
revise me!
                    jazz knew the importance of every instrument,
and the need to be spontaneous, but also
the need to be anti-synchronisation,
  and therefore anti-muddle tsunami of:
all together now!
            n'ah, **** that **** (yes, the Vulgate is
coming along, i like the pooch, i don't care what things
i might say, the rude growl-bark is coming along:
so we can admire him licking his *****, and for no
other reason he's coming):
as in the birth of sexes... which the animals don't
seem to comprehend that much intently...
                 i can't like my ******* or **** one off...
but i know i can abstract a woman into
a hand and just pretend it's me doing the ****
crap with her... than myself included,
   or as i might add: never drink or *******
before the mirror... soon enough your reflection
becomes a bit odd, not because of what you do,
but because you hide so much perplexity before
you in Lucifer's daylight with which
  the moon Narcissus governs the moods...
that you start to look at your actual shadow
   with more clarity and fact...
  looking in the mirror is the reverse of looking
at your shadow under a street-lamp at night...
the mirror sort of becomes a shadow...
             the form becomes a bit (ha ha, what
an exagerration) vague... i look into
a mirror and i am but looking into shadow...
                   and i can't exactly recognise the eyes,
or make our geometric approximations
of a skull...
                      it's not even a case of a poor Yorrick
blah blah.
    or as the new governing body put it:
there are to be no mirrors contained within
the gates of Pandemonium...
        each to his own shadow, each to his own abstract...
   for the shadow will be deemed the new mirror...
   the new found glacier of, yes:
when salt water freezes, comes pure white floating
on the oceans... but must you freeze fresh water
and there's this matrix...
as in icecubes...
       dropping from a vendor machine...
and i knew i shouldn't have digressed so much,
but then again, if there was no ****** tick-tock
       rebellion, i probably wouldn't have revealed this much...
with ancient lore...
    who'd use the word Pandemonium these days,
if you're merely trying to call it: the Houses of Westminster...
well sure, accusation due: i prefer
a bunch of kids feeding me a nostalgia over a song
i heard aged 14... such is the power of the song 46 & 2
done to a... wait wait...
  i was talking about bass guitars and jazz...
(i could never get to like rap...
            i liked when the blacks deconstructed classical
music, but they did after: i'll never like,
mainly people of blackies and that general fanfare
of rap feeding tribalism) -
          the greatest aspect of jazz:
that on some recordings there's a chance to hear all
the instruments having a solo moment...
you'll hear a quintent solo:
  the piano, the drum, the saxophone, the horn,
the double-bass solo... each doing a solo...
not some erectile dysfunction of rock music from the 1980s...
i mean: each one will do a solo...
  and **** me, that's grand... and given there's no vocals
makes it all the better... but where, the ****, can i hear
jazz music being kept with such high regard as i
might find mozart pickled and even mummified
     to suddenly rise again and compose like i might hear
it on classical.fm... maybe acid jazz killed it...
   i can't seem to hear of one place where i can hear
the range of jazz music i have in my collection...
which probably mean's i'm lazy and don't fiddle about
with the radio fm and am channels... to "look" for jazz...
  i'm all applause though: jazz allowed for
deconstruction of classical music and paved the way
for the current state of polyphony in plateau...
    meaning: too much drum, too much ump-pst-ump-pst...
   jazz paved the wsay from orchestra,
   and yes, maybe because it was too impromptu
as it was necessary, that there was no jazz composer...
  there could have been no jazz script... no pre
           to what was otherwise alway and only: uno...
a once...
    sure Thelonious Monk did use an orchestra at some time...
  but if only someone decided to do a solipsism
and write out jazz like mozart wrote out
      concerto... but no... jazz descending from on high
and invoking african villages could never do to
its practitioners the deadly fate of breeding a jazz
composer...
                   it was the communal idea, the musketeer
unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno:
   you could never allow a silent dictator like
a mozart dictating to a throng of people contained
within an orchestra... which later made the once
silent dictators very very vocal... speeches in Munich
alike...
           the fact that jazz has no script,
and the fact that if someone tries to play a Miles Davis
from script... is completely an ***...
     put him on a donkey (backwards)
                     donning a sanbenito and lynch him
to the nearest traffic junction to **** louder than
a car klaxon... that will do the trick...
       they did bother to script led zeppelin though...
    maybe it was the stiff competition that did it:
jazz. airy... breezy... but what a quick moment it was...
i'm almost jealous of the beat poets experimenting
with jazz musicians... but then i'm not:
i like to think of them as parasites...
   you know... those things feeding of spontaneity...
parasites... or dare i say: plagiarising leeches...
plagiarisng what? well, not the content, the context:
feeding of jazz spontaneity... not working from
old composers like Milton or Dante...
thank god for Ezra Pound and Sylvia Plath.

seems i have a ****** for a larynx...

perhaps i just seem to mean: i am a firm believer
in bilingualism... perhaps that's based on
some sort of religiosity,
    and let me tell you: it's born with
a schismatic nature, siamese, but not like a
siamese twin, in that it really needs a surgeon...
  it's a nucleus that's inherently schismatic...
i can't blame the english nation being
so lazy in its multicultural ethos,
i quiet like it: i don't live in a ghetto...
but forgetting my native tongue just so i could
sing a national anthem with conviction?
na'ah, that's not me...
            we'll come to Kraszewski's rex piast
in a minute, and it really was a genuine
experience of placebo dyslexia,
the one on the other side: should i have written
zilch...
      i believe in something quiet Canadian...
i don't believe in isolated communities,
   or ghetto tactic... i am a firm disciple of the advent
of bilingualism: forget the *** for just one day,
your genitals won't suddenly drop off with
gangrene scabs... you don't need a doctor
to say that...
                i mean: bilingualism as a concern
for incorporated culture, and the culture you were
born in... why can't these people just care to juggle
three testicles?
                   oh, elaphantisis got in the way...
sure, two oranges and a watermelon: makes sense...
no!
      have mutual respect, you come to me sprechen
Piast i'll speak Piast to you...
   well: given that polish and polish aren't that far apart,
i'd feel inclined to utilise
           idiosyncratic lingo...
   lingua genesis...
                children are so much easier to utilise than
angels: they have yet to experience anything at all
on the Socratic basis...
            so if i talk Piast to me, you will know what
i'm talking about?
     it doesn't matter if you do... i chose to be
a library, rather than an encyclopoedia of immigrants...
    there's not need to test me on general knowledge:
the stuff i "know" already gives me membrane...
     i respect both the culture of my birth and the skin
i am sometimes told to make sure is called tattoo,
and what i see before me, and quiet frankly:
i see nothing before me... a turban here,
    a sausage & mash there, a pint of guinness there,
noodles elsewhere... all in all: globalisation
and the elements: earthquakes... torandos...
   there isn't much to see in a poly-ethnic society...
there are too many major changes taking place
in a pyramid of non-ethnic ascriptive
         non-this-and-that pawns...
  it's not even painful: just a bit disgusting to watch...
  and yes i have access to a voult of monochromatic
society:
   you know how many ethnic minorities i spotted
in a train station in Warsaw? three...
two asians and one black woman...
              i haven't experienced the cold winters in Poland:
but i knew there was a limit...
         only about three apaches in a crowd of
albinos... which doesn't translate as:
    i was somehow content, it just meant
that most signs in Warsaw are written with a bilingual
bridge of Polish... and Ukranian Cyrillic...
plenty of Ukranian Mecca-bandits, for sure,
     but that's the end of the line with what
western Europe is doing to itself...
        every time i come back from Poland
i'm smeared with a rainbow of variety,
   it's either: i want to **** all these girlies
or i want to **** them... mostly the former,
  but you get the picture of experiencing the alternative
of the western experiment: since marxist economy
was "doomed" or simply expected to fail...
the economy finally seems reasonable with safety
for the old and the pension plans...
that marxist-culturalism had to emerge... if we are not
on the same dough plan of being content with a table and
a chair: might as well say we're all prone to don
a ******* afro.
                ***** are naturally curly, no?
going back "home" is always a weird experience, i tend
to read books there... like Kraszewski (who,
even the locals **** as being an unbearable bore
and joke that Joyce is easier read)... with his dei ire...
my grandfather just dropped it into my hands
as an experiment, thinking i wouldn't read it...
    well, in terms of translation Kraszewski is a myth-broker...
no one would read him,
  meaning: i'm kind of grateful that poles
seem to sorta: not exist, when it comes to citing examples
that include modernity and the history being
formed... i could sorta believe it if i were Estonian
or Lithuanian, or from Liechtenstein...
          but we're talking about a place with a large
enough population to be a major player in some
wordly conflict... Poland isn't that small...
    but yet it appears like it appeared from
the 18th century onwards... a state partitioned...
    and what i love about remaining tactifully bilingual?
i can talk about my native in a "colonial" tongue...
hence the " " definition: self-acquired...
             that's why i became spastic-fantastic reading
Kraszewski's rex piast - nothing came in,
i lost all trace of syllable construction, i read the books
so slowly i had one page done in about 10 minutes:
prolonging my musing of world powers, thrones
and crowns on a toilet...
        *******... another interlude.

can anyone see the, dodo project? i really just see a dodo project, yes: eine dodo projekt... i'm white, i'm male: can i be allowed to express these nouns in a pronoun, or am i schizophrenic prone? it seems i c
Dana Taylor May 2014
The sun is coming up so big and bright and bold that it feels like I could just reach out and grab it and put it in my pocket for later. I'm pretty sure I'm going to need it later.

I think he took his sun away for good. I tried to keep his sun shining. I tried so hard to keep it lit. But no matter how hard I stoked the fire, he kept me in the dark.

Somehow, I got so busy sustaining his solar energy that I didn't notice my own sun going out. His appeared so bright that I forgot I needed the warmth of my own. I don't know how long it will take my sun to heat up again.

Now it's as if I'm stumbling around a dark house during a power outage, searching for the emergency flashlight and hoping the batteries aren't as dead as we are. I think he used it last, and he never puts things back the way he found them. Good thing I grabbed the sun this morning and put it in my pocket for later.
Are you out there my Friend.? ? Somewhere The Wind is blowing..? Where your footprints are gone as soon as left. No one to know. No one Knowing.?
       Are you in the Wind? ? A voice, distant, lost in the swirl of snow and Autumn leaves.? Your way Home...unknown.
       The next step taken, but down what path.? Will it lead through this wood, or wander Forever this Dismal forest of Bramble and Thorn? No shelter in sight. No sheltering insight.
Crows with eyes bright. Plucking at your at your sleeves and dress. Catching your skin, bleeding you like a priest with a fleem. Leaving you wounded and hurt., weary and wary.
       If you stand still but a moment., cease your struggling, stumbling and listen. you'll hear my voice.
On the Wind
Calling you Home.
Safe within the walls and warmth of my arms.
For Brittney. Your looking for what you already found.
CharlesC Nov 2012
We do not
wish to be
accused of this..
an awkwardness
failure in life
mumbling our message
speech that's flawed..
our balance upset
falling and slipping..

but what of
those mistakes
those stumbles which
change our path..?
what of those
new insights
we stumble upon..?
a discovery made
when the normal
expected..?
when only our
stumbling could have
led to gold...?
Terry O'Leary May 2013
AWAKENING

Sleep and slumber, dreams of wonder... weaving,
morning’s vacuum broke the spell
Pitted pillow, note of parting... leaving,
“from your friend, a fond farewell”
Sunrise throbbing, twilight aching... grieving,
daydreams, flashbacks, nightmares knell
Pale phantasms, visions sneaking... thieving,
plot to fill the empty shell

12 DELIRIA

1st Delirium: COLLAPSES

Fractured sky bolts, billows bursting... rumbling,
heavens tighten, turn the vise
Horsemen saddle shafts of lightning... tumbling,
jagged highways must suffice
Ruptured skyways, hailstones crackling... crumbling,
naked pearls of paradise
Toxic tongues of laughter stinging... stumbling,
ocean buckets choked with ice
Droplets drumming, thunder muzzled... mumbling,
washed out whispers pay the price
Smothered blazes, cinders smoking... humbling,
ashes shaped in sacrifice

2nd Delirium: DESCENTS

Asphalt alleys, ashen faces... frowning,
blowing bubbles, chewing gum
Drinking ale from tavern tankards... downing,
moonlit beads of painted ***
Stony stars and sea misshapen... drowning,
humble rivers’ rhythms hum
Apparitions aspirating... clowning,
diamonds dying , minstrels strum
Incandescent candles conquered... crowning,
vacant vapours, cold and numb

3rd Delirium: FATES

Tempest turmoil, tapered turrets... holding,
dungeons, dragons, chains and racks
Wheels of fortune, Tarot temptress... molding,
Hangmen, Towers, One Eyed Jacks
Sand dune castles, cryptic candles... folding,
warping walls of liquid wax
Idols colder, combed and coddled... scolding,
hide in fissures, peek through cracks

4th Delirium: LOST SOULS

Sunken cities, pilgrims peering... gawking,
squinting eyeballs, blazing sun
Janus facing, shepherds chasing... stalking,
friends embrace before they shun
Tearooms steaming, tumult teeming... talking,
lovers listen, poets pun
Broken stones unanchored, quaking... rocking,
slipping, falling, one by one
Beaten pathways, footsteps marking... mocking,
wedged in webs which spiders spun
Circus shelters, big tops tumbling... locking,
people pacing, soon they’re none
Numbered exits, zeros numbing... knocking,
midnight daylight’s days undone
Moon blood shackles, shivers shaming... shocking,
starlight striders streaking, stun
Hushed but harried hermits waiting... walking,
restless rainbows on the run
Pixies, elves, and echoes bouncing... balking,
fading fast when dawn’s begun
Bantum butterflies are flitting... flocking
sometimes conquered, overrun
Hocus pokus, seers focus... squawking,
voodoo wavered, witchcraft won

5th Delirium: INTROSPECTION

Sundown furnace, fires fading... coughing,
dusky dew drops drain the air
Empty chalice, sipped in silence... quaffing,
thirsting shadows unaware
Looking glass and lattice scorning... scoffing,
local loser gapes and stares
Faces covered, dancing naked... doffing,
peering inside, hope despairs

6th Delirium: THE VOID

Tales of taboos, mystic mythos... missing,
windows shuttered, bolted door
Kindled candles, tongues and anvils... hissing,
heavy hammers, echoes roar
Dark deceivers, raven charmers... kissing,
draging demons from the shore
Hopeless hollows filled with doubters... dissing
standing empty - nevermore

7th Delirium: SEARCHING

Martyred monks haunt runic ruins ... waiting,
banging broken bells below
Vaulted hallways, voided voices... grating,
churning Chinese chimes aglow
Granite graveyards, spectres spooking... skating,
blackened bushes, roses grow
****** dwarfs seek mutant migrants... mating,
packing parcels, ice and snow

8th Delirium: NIGHTTIME

Throbbing drumheads, fingers blazing... steaming,
coins of copper, beggars plea
Rusty residues of resin... streaming,
opal amber filigree
Orphan shades in shallow shadows... teeming,
steeping twigs in twilight tea
Cloister doorsteps, Prophets gaming... scheming,
tracing tracks of destiny
Blacksmiths blanching, horseshoes glowing... gleaming,
partially sheathed in black debris
Phantoms feigning, nightmares scathing... screaming,
dusty dreamers drifting free

9th Delerium: EMPTYNESS

Water wheels in wastelands... turning,
drowning relics in the slum
Rumpled rags of fashioned burlap... burning,
lit by bandits blind and dumb
Pastured prisons, ponies bridled ... yearning,
forest fairies under thumb
Sounds inside of cauldrons coughing... churning,
blaring bugles, tattooed drum

10th Delirium: ALIENATION

Rain unravelling, wistfully weeping... falling,
treacle trickling, fickle sky
Mushrooms sprinkled, visions sprouting... sprawling,
seagulls drowning, dolphins die
Rabble gasping, spirits broken... crawling,
lonely lonesome swallows cry
Babbling brooks and breakers ebbing... bawling
puppies paddle, puppets sigh
People passing ripple past me... calling,
rainbow colours, collars high
Chaos seething, lepers looting... stalling,
stealing stallions on the sly
Pencils pausing, scholars scrambling... scrawling,
scratching scribbles, asking why

11th Delirium: JETSAM

Silver sails sway pallid pirates... prowling,
Jolly Rogers, wind and sound
Parrots perching, tattered feathers... fouling,
tethered talons, tied and bound
Shipwrecked foghorns, trumpets stranded... howling,
spiral springs of time unwound
Magic moonlight, shimmers shaking... scowling,
burnt out matchsticks washed aground
Prairie wolfs, coyotes calling... yowling,
witching hours, midnight hounds
Tightrope walkers, grizzlies grunting... growling,
seeking islands, lost and found

12th Delirium: RELIEF

Slumber shattered, vapours captive... haunting,
chained in mirrors, breaking free
Scarlet skylines, daylight dawning... daunting,
rivers rushing to the sea
Silence softens, sandmen whisper... wanting,
piercing rafters, turning keys
Shadows shudder, notions fluster... flaunting,
moonbeam bullets meant for me
Mind in migraine, meadows trembling... taunting,
sparrows speak in harmony

REAWAKENING

Pitter patter, teardrops paling... pearling,
salting scarves in secret drawers
Mist amongst us, smoke rings rising... curling,
climbing from the ocean floors
See-saw circles, senses swerving... swirling,
swept away with silver oars
Courtyard jesters, sceptres twisting... twirling,
push the past to foreign shores
Passing pangs of passions heaving... hurling,
burning bridges, closing doors
Roses wither, icons waning... whirling,
time decays and time restores
465

I heard a Fly buzz—when I died—
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air—
Between the Heaves of Storm—

The Eyes around—had wrung them dry—
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset—when the King
Be witnessed—in the Room—

I willed my Keepsakes—Signed away
What portion of me be
Assignable—and then it was
There interposed a Fly—

With Blue—uncertain stumbling Buzz—
Between the light—and me—
And then the Windows failed—and then
I could not see to see—
Lambs that learn to walk in snow
When their bleating clouds the air
Meet a vast unwelcome, know
Nothing but a sunless glare.
Newly stumbling to and fro
All they find, outside the fold,
Is a wretched width of cold.

As they wait beside the ewe,
Her fleeces wetly caked, there lies
Hidden round them, waiting too,
Earth's immeasureable surprise.
They could not grasp it if they knew,
What so soon will wake and grow
Utterly unlike the snow.
Grahame Jun 2014
A  MOONLIT  KNIGHT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At that time, if anyone was around,
They might then hear an unusual sound,
As though a fully accoutred
1

Monday Night Football on a Thursday.
Preseason. Johnny Manziel, running.
The nurse is a signal caller, too.
She flicks the wrist like Rodgers,
puts spin on it like Manning.
Once a rookie, now a seasoned vet.

2

Monday Night Football on a Thursday.
Network glitch? John Gruden, talking.
Anxiety lurks in the tall grass
still licking its paws. My head's out the game.
I've become an easy meal.

3

Monday Night Football on a Thursday.
If I had another John he'd go right here.
I miss my mother, and how she smiles
like my illness only increases my value,
puts gold in my veins instead of chemo.
Rex throws his clipboard, I lose my appetite.

4

Monday Night Football On A Thursday.
No more John's. Get over it.
Game's almost over. My head fresh from
the toilet, pieces of everything falling out
of me. Broken. Stumbling. At this moment,
football is enough.
Grace Apr 2014
When you tried to give me a compliment I always turn the cheek
Batting it away like it doesn't belong to me

That my hair is too frizzy for you to like it
My eyes too blue for your brown

My legs are elegant but they are marked with my disappointment
The purple and the blue will never go away
Yes, the bruises will slowly heal but by the time one problem is resolved another sapling and will slowly take root and show it's colors

You say my heart is made to heal
But I can't find it
It's buried so deep I can't hear it keeping time to my life song
It's crushed under all my self downs and worries
In that hollow it grows
Like a new bud
And one day it will turn into a flower

My response to your comment is lost on my tongue
It is somewhere tucked inside my conscience
Playing hide and seek with the directions on how to talk to boys and how to give an oral report without turning red
And I'm the seeker

You tell me I'm beautiful
But I can't hear you
The voices taunting me inside my head are too loud for your soft voice
Arguing about which way right
When I find my answer it seems as if the time has already left

You are already heading off in the other direction
Leaving me stumbling over my daydreams and expectations
Trying to get a grasp on what's ethical

I always forget to say thank you
It's sort of a bad habit
I'm always too worried about what will happen if I say something wrong
If I'll turn you away

I want you to know that I want you to stay
Stay close and hug me when I need it
So I can help you through your hardships
And carry each other's hopes and dreams upon our shoulders

You will be the soldier of my heart
Guarding the gates for all of the knights in shining armor that aren't noble enough to be my Prince Charming
Sorry I know it's not complete. It's a work in progress and I would like some feedback. Thanks!
Najwa Kareem Jun 2018
They're chasing this dollar bill
even it means compromising their beliefs and morals
even if it means lowering the status of their souls
even if it means hurting and not really caring about their own children
even if it means abusing them

They're chasing this dollar bill and they like the taste of this dollar bill
They want to taste it every day
They like what they can do with this dollar bill so they chase it every day
They don't realize how much of a slave they are to this dollar bill, nor will they admit to their slavery

They don't care if their chasing this dollar bill means more single sisters in the world
They don't care if it means mostly sisters are running many civil, Islamic, and Muslim organizations even though their husbands' contributions are desperately needed
Even if their children need their strength and their sons need role models and need and want to look up to them
Even if their children do not know how to read Quran and understand its meanings so they grow up stable, on solid footing, and bullet-proofed from all of the dangerous threats coming at them every day
They're chasing this dollar bill

They imitate their fathers chasing this dollar bill
Some want to out do their fathers in pursuit of this dollar bill
Some want to out do their fathers who failed in pursuit of the dollar bill
Some want to out do their fathers who succeeded in pursuit of the dollar bill
Some want to out do their fathers who care less about chasing this dollar bill
They're chasing this dollar bill

The culture says if one is a man, he's supposed to be chasing this dollar bill
If he wants to be a man, he has to keep chasing the dollar bill
To be successful, have a perpetual plan on chasing the dollar bill
Advertisements, subliminal messages suggesting they need more things
They need more to be happy
They're chasing this dollar bill

They didn't get what they wanted when they were growing up. Now they can with this dollar bill
They had a frugal parent. Now they can be reckless. They're chasing this dollar bill
They had a cheap car in high school and in college. Not anymore. Luxury now only on wheels. They're chasing this dollar bill

Buying their children the name brand shoes they didn't have as children; Living vicariously makes up for a lot; Living vicariously fills up the holes
They're chasing this dollar bill

This dollar bill gets them the beautiful girl or so they think or at least temporarily
Finally they feel like somebody chasing this dollar bill

Their sons need to learn about chastity so they learn to respect God, themselves, and girls and to understand the value, beauty, and protection of experiencing *** and intimacy in marriage
Time is money. They're chasing this dollar bill

Young girls sitting in the classroom dressed looking like hookers and hoes and boys expected to focus on the teacher and their school work; Keep their eyes down and not call the girls, and not flirt with them, and not want to sleep with them or not go home with them. God on the other hand is covered up and no one is teaching kids who they are but the expectation is that they will know God and know themselves 
They're chasing this dollar bill

The oppressed need people to advocate for them. There are tons of homeless on the street. They're chasing this dollar bill

The ones around them who call themselves friends not really being friends to them.
Their friends don't ask them What's up with you? Where are your priorities? Re-evaluate your priorities man. What's really behind all this chasing? I want to see you in heaven with me hopefully. I want to share in it with you. I care about you.

Instead their friends compliment them on their chasing this dollar bill
Their friends admire them chasing the dollar bill
Their friends edge them on to chase harder, chase more
Their friends get puffed up being associated with friends chasing this dollar bill
Their friends copy them chasing the dollar bill so they too have a taste of the dollar bill
Their friends compete with them chasing the dollar bill

They want to keep up with the Jones's running after the dollar bill, tripping and stumbling along the way trying not to let others see
They're chasing this dollar bill

I don't understand
It makes no sense to me
Why they're chasing this dollar bill to such a degree

It's clear to me. They're out of their right mind. That's what chasing this dollar bill can do to thee

They are on a chasing-this-dollar-bill frenzy
Their daughters need them to teach them more about hijab. Some of them wearing no hijab leaving them more of a target for hungry boys and men...like a closet full of valuables with no sign on the outside reading "Private"; Not for you to touch. Not your property. Not your valuables
What does that matter. They're chasing this dollar bill

Boys and men tempted by their daughters without hijab to imagine what their daughters' private parts sizes might be; What the sight of their nakedness could be
What they could do with their private parts
Their daughters need to learn their value and their worth from their fathers, fathers who are chasing this dollar bill

A human life investment or a temporary monetary investment...Where do they invest their time
It's an easy answer - They have no time...they're chasing this dollar bill

The community needs building but their homes need upgrading
They're chasing this dollar bill

My heart is heavy. I don't feel well
I'll keep talking about it. Even if I puke
I'll keep writing

They say women follow men. That's exactly what they are doing
They too are chasing this dollar bill

And we're all weaker because of it

If money strengthens, why are we weak
Why are our men weak
Why are our women frail  

Why

They're chasing this dollar bill

They're chasing this dollar bill
Hannuh Jacey Oct 2012
Rainbows sit high
Imagination glides down their backs
and it scars hearts
after reaching a high, nothing matches that
Missing something now.
The paint, it trickles down and melts eyes
its canvas pain, it paints it gray.

To my fickle sea.
Poking holes in wishes you receive
The colors of the bay, they float away
Black and White is an infinite abyss
Lose yourself in the grace of it.
No in between,
just keep your eyes wide
you'll see nothing.
The sand at your feet
The glass and rocks that glaze the earth,
always find a way to cut their grace.
Don't pray too hard for me.

Search through your garden
the size of a thumbtack
the flowers rise over your head.
Trees of candy cane sprout before your eyes
You can't see what another sees,
no one to know what you know.

Taking a step inside an orchids stem
and tip-toeing down through the veins of its petals
the purple and gold
they all bleed through your mind.
Form and shape the world which you dance along,
thoughts of blowing breezes send your thoughts along their way
into this endless sea.

Watch the lines write themselves into darkened corners.
The bright and shining sun could change your world.
Swirling and spiraling staircases send you downwards without a thought,
no stopping the whirl-pool once your slipping under.
An octopus would take you in
and with every one of his eight arms he caresses your pain away
showing real effort in his cause

those who impress, settle at unrest

Watch as the berries erupt and bloom
crawl along the lines
mazes of blue
and red know there is no way to succeed.
Watch as the bumblebees sneeze with their noses covered in yellow dreams.
they pack it in with their toes in teams

A great glass lake, to skate along
the ripples
She falls along each crease,
stumbling and tumbling between each droplet.

The clouds fly high above her head,
they gaze upon her flowing gown.
They cry sad tears when they see her eyes
drowning her futures in their skies,
flowing and crashing and thrashing.

With an umbrella, float away
above the days when everything
turned out wrong.

The great glass lake serves true,
until you skip the rock of inferiority along its reflection.
The shatter will fly all about.
That is the point at which it ends
Everything you know is then contradicted and compromised
Your own description shattered

Stones drop from high heights
out of clouds with heavy hearts
waiting to smash this dream.

Great glass lake shines on.
February 7th, 2008
Read well with - The Reluctant Ballerina by Greg Maroney
Saudade Saudade Jul 2014
You'll never know how cool I am, when I'm around you I just lose my cool.

But if you decide you decide to hold my hand, I swear I'd be warm enough for you.

As cold as hearts can sometimes be, it finds a flame, only after it's found your name.

As cold as my once stumbling feet, always steadly stumbling, fumbling your way.

Tip-toe, one. two. One. In front of. The other. tip. Toe. Tip.

This dance often repeated when I feel I've lost my grip.

Tip-toe, one. Two. One. In front of. The other. Tip. toe. tip.

You watch me advance, cocked brow and lip.

Crawling back to you.

Always crawling back to you.

Always never ever feeling right until I write to you.

And every night I write to you;
In my head, lying awake in bed;
with keyboards or with lead;
with songs birthed from dread--
singing "our love is dead."

And You'll never know how cool I am, cause around you I just lose my cool.

So I settle for a copy, for a hobby, for a tool.

As cold as hearts can sometimes be, it would thaw at a possiblity of you and me.

As cold as my once stumbling feet, still steadly stumbling, fumbling your way.

Tip-toe, one. two. One. In front of. The other. Tip. Toe. Tip.

I don't fear your rejection, in your eyes I've already quit.

Tip toe, one. Two. One. In front of. The other. Tip. toe. tip.

Inching as close as I can get, Hoping you still hear your name on my lips.

knowing the first thing you might say is , "Ain't this some ****."

"You come and go as you please, you do?"

"Assuming that I'll always be here for you."

But you /were/ always there
And I think that's hella cool.
That'd you could be so warm,
To such an uncool fool.
MonkeyZazu Nov 2014
Darkness loves me too much
Always has me in a tight hold
It loosens it grip every now and then
But never really lets me go

Because it consumes all color
It's able to create any illusion
Sometimes I believe it's not there
But really, who am I foolin'

Darkness always surrounds me
Always lingers over my shoulder
Simulating fake happiness and warmth
Only making me colder

For now I endure the shadows
Try to put up a good fight
Still stumbling through darkness lost,
A blind man searching for light
Mateuš Conrad Oct 2015
.let's begin: i've been watching youtube haemorrhage over the past few years (4 / 5 in total) and... i do still enjoy the sort of cabaret weimar associated with criticalcondition when comapred to beanie hat tim pool... sorry: i just like a bit of cabaret, i know that comedy is translated in the western lands by stand-up monologues, but in germany and poland: cabaret is the toy assurance to compensate the justifications for theatre or opera... i like criticalcondition, trans-, ******: my my, how did the chemistry prefixes of attachement groups of a benzene ring overpower bio-realism? imagine a blocked toilet in terms of hinduism / buddhism in terms of the metaphysics of reincarnation... well: metaphysics by their great culinary understanding implies: a return to the same debacle, perhaps only slightly elevated... we have already reached a post- gott ist tot scenario of metaphysics... gott is quiet apparent, since the ancient greeks believed that "shamed" men would come back as women: now? the women did a shortcut... they said: tod ist tot... wouldn't that be the case? a blocked toilet, well... if god has to die first, then death itself has to die, ergo: tod ist tot! ha ha... imagine... to think of the glamorous concept of eastern theology as nothing more than a plumber's day-shift... looks like the toilet is blocked... since... men are not spawning into female form after death, instead, deciding to spawn back into male form with a female "brain"... who is that god of mischief in hinduism? oh... look! Aditi! well it's not an isolated case, is it? i once picked up a thai surprise from a park bench, played her some jazz, ****** her in the garden... bangkok ladyboys are the duran duran of 1980s electro-puppy-pop! once god dies, death follows suit... after all... death is (a) shadow of (the) god... blocked toilet metaphysics, all the brahmin as running wild, naked, psychotic: but the lesser men were not supposed to know they were reborn into female bodies, there was that safety net in place to: let them reincarnate with an amnesia principle! what's happening?! the women are raiding up the ranks?! contrapoints compared to tim pool? sorry beanie-boy... you're not the beastie... quiet... i'd love to b.j. that make-up off from contrapoints... problem being... i love when a ****** speaks so much sense... but... hands... i find a woman's hands too be the most ****** aspect of her body... 4/5... that's a fraction... for my five knuckles in terms of hand size, ***** "envy" and what my five knuckles look like to a woman's 4? you get the picture... there is also another fraction... 72 genders?! wha-?! i see gender in the 3/2 fraction... a woman can satisfy three men... the ****, the **** the mouth... a man... can only satisfy 2... the **** and the mouth... oh... wait... 3/3... someone can be giving him a b.j. while he's giving him a b.j..... it's still a blockage of reincarnation though... the greeks believed the lesser man was to be reborn in a "lesser" body... ****, i always forget how the ratio works... i always think: 1 man has 3 options of entry, 3 women have 1 point of entry each... but fraction is wonky though... in that... a woman can entertain three variations of entry: mouth, ****, ****... but a man has to entertain two points of entry and one point of insertion... so the fraction still stands at 3/2... which makes the islamic celestial harem nonsense... unless equipped with an exess of res extensa ****** to satiate the hunger of 72 virgins... a ****** gambit if you ask me... 72 virgins sounds more like a headache than what Solomon forsake in owning for the queen of Shēba... king! Solomon! after all the *******, enough wisdom suddenly trickled into his head, and he chose the route of the monogamy of birds! mind you: whatever wisdom king! Solomon ever had to begin with... i would still favor king David... i like a man with a distrust of women and having an unadulterated desire for music as second to none medicinal property to cure existential ailments; i tried *******, no good... sure, great exercise... esp. with prostitutes... but an in depth analysis of the perpetuated banality of life and how to learn to masquerade it behind a veil of seemingly banal? a harem will not help, but music will. even nietzsche understood this... criticalcondition: i do actually fancy him it her they... she does have that: je ne sais quoi air... weimar cabaret "revised"... not quiet the switz cabaret dada voltaire... but all i know is the number of holes of points of insertion and the fact that i have hands the size that could hold a basketball in one... and how... oh, wow! i really came late to the asian fetish party late... here, have some grenades! **** ying, cat meng, na mu han, you mi, ni ye teng, ai sayama, hoshina mizuki, ayaka noda, (l)im ji hye, lie fei er, (barbie) ke er... ergo? this whole asian fetish scene? am i looking at dolls? i'm not even sure... am i white, by comparison to these procelain babushkas?! i'm not white: orange man bad! i thought so too: i'm... piglet! the i'm not white: these girls are... and the funny thing is, the "funny" thing, is? i don't have to see much more beside the cleavage or the ******* or the thighs to... hey! i'm a late bloomer to this asiatic fetish... side-tracked by the european transgender ******* and the thai surprise ladyboys... what is **** what isn't ****: that, really depends on how much you rely on your imagination... if a sight of white, porcelain cleavage gets you off... who the hell needs the whole "show"... after all... even the niqab is a game on how to arouse the male libido... it's pretty hard to be aroused by a fully exposed female torso like some maasai ivory beauty... then the "said" objects are more functional and designated for feeding purposes... than ***** *******... aren't they?! oh i can see a revision of the niqab... imagine this in saudi arabia... both the eyes are not hidden from view, as isn't the mouth! batman 2."oh"... oh i don't like these new communists in the west... white... priv. who, that japanese?! i'm not white, i said it already and i'll say it again: i'm not a porcelain doll! talk to the **** about white privilege... they're the ones with milk veils... my "white privilege" is only associated to having blond hair, green or blue eyes... it has nothing to do with... skin!

i’m suspicious of the ones that say: without telling the truth
we can moralise, by not stating the truth
we can allow ourselves falsehood in the prime
instinct to provide replicas of ourselves
without truth of two subject interacting,
but merely the truth of two objects interacting
reducible into the dwarf of darwinism
that speaks: over-sexualise and feel less encountered
by understanding the opposite!
so much is true in this era - with the english poodle
waggling in frenzies for the americans to spectate and applaud...
i’ve had to become a german in england,
the sort that might be liked by nietzschean arrogance,
but apart from that i’m working on how
certain people simply use words rather than letters,
how they can never use the shovels and pickaxes,
how this congregation of atheists at comic stand-up shows
is doing my head in: a theological mid-life crises,
this blatant take on theology using the logic:
from monkey you came, to monkeying you shall return...
now that trends like the crown all animals have,
all animals already unique do not need to replicate consciously,
but man is stumbling into wasting his conscious on replication,
on plagiarism... it’s so odd... so so odd! why would man
waste his consciousness to simply invoke replication?
where’s the self in that, the anti-frankenstein story so powerful
he does not wish to do anything other than marvel at
the connectivity of the bone to the nerve to the muscle?
the 20th century gave birth militant atheism -
the 21st century is labouring with a different kind of atheism -
the sort of atheism that says no barriers exist between master and servant
as between worm and pigeon - even though
the depression of the master is opposed to the servant’s depression
that he only spots analogues within the framework of
synonymity with other masters... ‘why are we so depressed?’
asked master a, ‘i have no idea,’ answered master b over lunch.
in the lower decks of the ship servant a says to servant b -
- ‘god, i rowed all day long, i’m so ****** tired!
no thought will keep me awake.’
- ‘that’s true, i’m knackered also, broken limbs of my effort
like a chestnut, no thought will keep me awake either,
lucky we exhaust the body.’
- ‘too true, with the body exhausted the mind is never disputed
never disputed by not having origins in thinking
but rather having origins in the body.’
- ‘verily, i rather our fate than the masters’ fate.’
- ‘why?’
- ‘as you said, our’s is the story of ****** demands,
their’s is a story of thought’s demands,
meaning they exhaust their mind in the accesses
thought provides, it’s like a secondary body we have no knowledge of,
they are exhausted by thinking because their body is not exhausted.’
- ‘makes sense.’
- 'hence their malady of melancholia and our as simple exhaustion.'
- 'where’s the buffer?'
- 'in the olympians, the discus throwers, the most positive lot, and due to this, the easiest
to break down from high positivity; they have no awareness
of complex thinking and are quickly undermined with all this sports’ psychology!'
- 'true to the burning tire... it's all dietary awareness and muscle bulk with them after a loss.'
- 'indeed, as our's is with aesop dreamily awaiting a freedom that’s an anarchy,as translated from aesop's fables into
spartacus' resolve.'
- 'ah yes, that old spartan revolt in the roman empire.'
so like i said, i do know that darwinism is the new super cool sensibility,
taking into account more than 10,000 years of history
and talking about it for 2 hours wishing that something
spectacular might happen tomorrow, or any other given day...
but like i said previously... darwinism just killed history...
outside the realm of journalism we’re talking millions of years...
so why would i give a **** if it’s a friday the 23rd of october in the imaginary year 2015?
well if you put crocodile into a pile of hyenas you’ll probably
get a a cuckoo mixed with a squid because of the beak shared by the two...
i know, atheism is cool, for now,
but when the quantum j provides the classical physics’ objects like jupiter
you’ll ask what the quantum of j is... and i’ll say... full-stop...
that’s because, perhaps, i never use language as:
copy - work - paste - with - copy - me - paste - on - copy - this - paste - one,
but rather...
w - grammatical arithmetic (g.a.) - o - g.a. - r - g.a. - k,
because no one can tell me that the letter j
is uniform in the context of i or k...
as the quantum phonetics of uttering the word
onomatopoeia... is no different from uttering the word bull...
so many variables of spotting the quantum physics
in pronunciation... so many varying levels of required energy
to utter j or k... onomatopoeia or bull -
so... what's the antonym of quantum - the maximum
amount of any physical entity involved in an interaction -
i know that poets speak of grains of sand = no. of stars
and that the mathematicians use the curtain of infinity
to digress... but finding the maximum will be harder
given that there will be no socratic knowledge to use as canvas...
i.e. nothing;
added to the fact that there’s a non-differential quantum
that makes ë and em almost identical in terms of the least energy used,
this humanistic paradox of bonding means there is no unique human
sound that doesn’t borrow another human sound to execute a phoneticism,
otherwise ë and em translate as eh and humming anti-treble of the lips, or finger licking mmm of kentucky.
actually... we have the opposite of quantum physics...
the body functions within an ~37ºC emission...
there are four seasons in a year... the earth's orbit is 365 days,
i just took all the known macro units
and consolidated them in the micro unit of joules undifferentiated
in terms of observable "energy."
Jordan Rowan Dec 2015
Have you ever felt like a child in the dark?
Where the whispers become thunder and the gods pound in your heart?
There's no sense in trying to quiet the storm
All that can be done is to embrace it with both arms

I feel like a traveller stumbling on a chest
Filled with something familiar but I can't quite place it yet
I found a picture lying in the dirt
As my mind was turned on by the velvet colored shirt

Some time ago, when my hair reached my eyes
I recall a quick visit that seemed to disappear and die
No matter how hard I try to remember
I can't come up with reasons I gave up that cold September

Now, as time's gone by, and things have changed
Like the inflections of my voice and memories estranged
I hear a voice from many Septembers ago
Like a harmony so rich that I can't wait to know
Erin Apr 2015
Expectations can be vicious things
Casting a mirage, making things appear sugary sweet
Playing tricks on your mind and luring you in
You're envisioning your perfect fantasy
Taking that fateful step towards uncertainty
Head high and heart full of blissful unrealistic expectations
You find yourself stumbling in upon...

Nothing
But emptiness
And your shattered dreams
Translated into English in 1859 by Edward FitzGerald

I.
Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light.

II.
Dreaming when Dawn's Left Hand was in the Sky
I heard a voice within the Tavern cry,
"Awake, my Little ones, and fill the Cup
Before Life's Liquor in its Cup be dry."

III.
And, as the **** crew, those who stood before
The Tavern shouted -- "Open then the Door!
You know how little while we have to stay,
And, once departed, may return no more."

IV.
Now the New Year reviving old Desires,
The thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires,
Where the White Hand of Moses on the Bough
Puts out, and Jesus from the Ground suspires.

V.
Iram indeed is gone with all its Rose,
And Jamshyd's Sev'n-ring'd Cup where no one Knows;
But still the Vine her ancient ruby yields,
And still a Garden by the Water blows.

VI.
And David's Lips are lock't; but in divine
High piping Pehlevi, with "Wine! Wine! Wine!
Red Wine!" -- the Nightingale cries to the Rose
That yellow Cheek of hers to incarnadine.

VII.
Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly -- and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.

VIII.
Whether at Naishapur or Babylon,
Whether the Cup with sweet or bitter run,
The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop,
The Leaves of Life kep falling one by one.

IX.
Morning a thousand Roses brings, you say;
Yes, but where leaves the Rose of Yesterday?
And this first Summer month that brings the Rose
Shall take Jamshyd and Kaikobad away.

X.
But come with old Khayyam, and leave the Lot
Of Kaikobad and Kaikhosru forgot:
Let Rustum lay about him as he will,
Or Hatim Tai cry Supper -- heed them not.

XI.
With me along the strip of Herbage strown
That just divides the desert from the sown,
Where name of Slave and Sultan is forgot --
And Peace is Mahmud on his Golden Throne!

XII.
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, -- and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness --
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

XIII.
Some for the Glories of This World; and some
Sigh for the Prophet's Paradise to come;
Ah, take the Cash, and let the Promise go,
Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum!

XIV.
Were it not Folly, Spider-like to spin
The Thread of present Life away to win --
What? for ourselves, who know not if we shall
Breathe out the very Breath we now breathe in!

XV.
Look to the Rose that blows about us -- "Lo,
Laughing," she says, "into the World I blow:
At once the silken Tassel of my Purse
Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw."

XVI.
The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon
Turns Ashes -- or it prospers; and anon,
Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face
Lighting a little Hour or two -- is gone.

XVII.
And those who husbanded the Golden Grain,
And those who flung it to the Winds like Rain,
Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn'd
As, buried once, Men want dug up again.

XVIII.
Think, in this batter'd Caravanserai
Whose Doorways are alternate Night and Day,
How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp
Abode his Hour or two and went his way.

XIX.
They say the Lion and the Lizard keep
The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep:
And Bahram, that great Hunter -- the Wild ***
Stamps o'er his Head, but cannot break his Sleep.

**.
I sometimes think that never blows so red
The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled;
That every Hyacinth the Garden wears
Dropt in its Lap from some once lovely Head.

XXI.
And this delightful Herb whose tender Green
Fledges the River's Lip on which we lean --
Ah, lean upon it lightly! for who knows
From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen!

XXII.
Ah, my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears
To-day of past Regrets and future Fears --
To-morrow? -- Why, To-morrow I may be
Myself with Yesterday's Sev'n Thousand Years.

XXIII.
Lo! some we loved, the loveliest and best
That Time and Fate of all their Vintage prest,
Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,
And one by one crept silently to Rest.

XXIV.
And we, that now make merry in the Room
They left, and Summer dresses in new Bloom,
Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth
Descend, ourselves to make a Couch -- for whom?

XXV.
Ah, make the most of what we may yet spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
Dust into Dust, and under Dust, to lie;
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and -- sans End!

XXVI.
Alike for those who for To-day prepare,
And those that after some To-morrow stare,
A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries
"Fools! Your Reward is neither Here nor There!"

XXVII.
Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss'd
Of the Two Worlds so learnedly, are ******
Like foolish Prophets forth; their Works to Scorn
Are scatter'd, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.

XXVIII.
Oh, come with old Khayyam, and leave the Wise
To talk; one thing is certain, that Life flies;
One thing is certain, and the Rest is Lies;
The Flower that once has blown forever dies.

XXIX.
Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument
About it and about; but evermore
Came out by the same Door as in I went.

***.
With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow,
And with my own hand labour'd it to grow:
And this was all the Harvest that I reap'd --
"I came like Water and like Wind I go."

XXXI.
Into this Universe, and Why not knowing,
Nor Whence, like Water *****-nilly flowing:
And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,
I know not Whither, *****-nilly blowing.

XXXII.
Up from Earth's Centre through the Seventh Gate
I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate,
And many Knots unravel'd by the Road;
But not the Master-Knot of Human Fate.

XXXIII.
There was the Door to which I found no Key:
There was the Veil through which I could not see:
Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee
There was -- and then no more of Thee and Me.

XXXIV.
Then to the rolling Heav'n itself I cried,
Asking, "What Lamp had Destiny to guide
Her little Children stumbling in the Dark?"
And -- "A blind Understanding!" Heav'n replied.

XXXV.
Then to the Lip of this poor earthen Urn
I lean'd, the secret Well of Life to learn:
And Lip to Lip it murmur'd -- "While you live,
Drink! -- for, once dead, you never shall return."

XXXVI.
I think the Vessel, that with fugitive
Articulation answer'd, once did live,
And merry-make, and the cold Lip I kiss'd,
How many Kisses might it take -- and give!

XXXVII.
For in the Market-place, one Dusk of Day,
I watch'd the Potter thumping his wet Clay:
And with its all obliterated Tongue
It murmur'd -- "Gently, Brother, gently, pray!"

XXXVIII.
And has not such a Story from of Old
Down Man's successive generations roll'd
Of such a clod of saturated Earth
Cast by the Maker into Human mould?

XXXIX.
Ah, fill the Cup: -- what boots it to repeat
How Time is slipping underneath our Feet:
Unborn To-morrow, and dead Yesterday,
Why fret about them if To-day be sweet!

XL.
A Moment's Halt -- a momentary taste
Of Being from the Well amid the Waste --
And Lo! the phantom Caravan has reach'd
The Nothing it set out from -- Oh, make haste!

XLI.
Oh, plagued no more with Human or Divine,
To-morrow's tangle to itself resign,
And lose your fingers in the tresses of
The Cypress-slender Minister of Wine.

XLII.
Waste not your Hour, nor in the vain pursuit
Of This and That endeavor and dispute;
Better be merry with the fruitful Grape
Than sadden after none, or bitter, fruit.

XLIII.
You know, my Friends, with what a brave Carouse
I made a Second Marriage in my house;
Divorced old barren Reason from my Bed,
And took the Daughter of the Vine to Spouse.

XLIV.
And lately, by the Tavern Door agape,
Came stealing through the Dusk an Angel Shape
Bearing a Vessel on his Shoulder; and
He bid me taste of it; and 'twas -- the Grape!

XLV.
The Grape that can with Logic absolute
The Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects confute:
The subtle Alchemest that in a Trice
Life's leaden Metal into Gold transmute.

XLVI.
Why, be this Juice the growth of God, who dare
Blaspheme the twisted tendril as Snare?
A Blessing, we should use it, should we not?
And if a Curse -- why, then, Who set it there?

XLVII.
But leave the Wise to wrangle, and with me
The Quarrel of the Universe let be:
And, in some corner of the Hubbub couch'd,
Make Game of that which makes as much of Thee.

XLVIII.
For in and out, above, about, below,
'Tis nothing but a Magic Shadow-show,
Play'd in a Box whose Candle is the Sun,
Round which we Phantom Figures come and go.

XLIX.
Strange, is it not? that of the myriads who
Before us pass'd the door of Darkness through
Not one returns to tell us of the Road,
Which to discover we must travel too.

L.
The Revelations of Devout and Learn'd
Who rose before us, and as Prophets burn'd,
Are all but Stories, which, awoke from Sleep,
They told their fellows, and to Sleep return'd.

LI.
Why, if the Soul can fling the Dust aside,
And naked on the Air of Heaven ride,
Is't not a shame -- Is't not a shame for him
So long in this Clay suburb to abide?

LII.
But that is but a Tent wherein may rest
A Sultan to the realm of Death addrest;
The Sultan rises, and the dark Ferrash
Strikes, and prepares it for another guest.

LIII.
I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
Some letter of that After-life to spell:
And after many days my Soul return'd
And said, "Behold, Myself am Heav'n and Hell."

LIV.
Heav'n but the Vision of fulfill'd Desire,
And Hell the Shadow of a Soul on fire,
Cast on the Darkness into which Ourselves,
So late emerg'd from, shall so soon expire.

LV.
While the Rose blows along the River Brink,
With old Khayyam and ruby vintage drink:
And when the Angel with his darker Draught
Draws up to Thee -- take that, and do not shrink.

LVI.
And fear not lest Existence closing your
Account, should lose, or know the type no more;
The Eternal Saki from the Bowl has pour'd
Millions of Bubbls like us, and will pour.

LVII.
When You and I behind the Veil are past,
Oh but the long long while the World shall last,
Which of our Coming and Departure heeds
As much as Ocean of a pebble-cast.

LVIII.
'Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.

LIX.
The Ball no Question makes of Ayes and Noes,
But Right or Left, as strikes the Player goes;
And he that toss'd Thee down into the Field,
He knows about it all -- He knows -- HE knows!

LX.
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

LXI.
For let Philosopher and Doctor preach
Of what they will, and what they will not -- each
Is but one Link in an eternal Chain
That none can slip, nor break, nor over-reach.

LXII.
And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky,
Whereunder crawling coop't we live and die,
Lift not thy hands to it for help -- for It
Rolls impotently on as Thou or I.

LXIII.
With Earth's first Clay They did the Last Man knead,
And then of the Last Harvest sow'd the Seed:
Yea, the first Morning of Creation wrote
What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read.

LXIV.
Yesterday This Day's Madness did prepare;
To-morrow's Silence, Triumph, or Despair:
Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why:
Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where.

LXV.
I tell You this -- When, starting from the Goal,
Over the shoulders of the flaming Foal
Of Heav'n Parwin and Mushtari they flung,
In my predestin'd Plot of Dust and Soul.

LXVI.
The Vine has struck a fiber: which about
If clings my Being -- let the Dervish flout;
Of my Base metal may be filed a Key,
That shall unlock the Door he howls without.

LXVII.
And this I know: whether the one True Light,
Kindle to Love, or Wrath -- consume me quite,
One Glimpse of It within the Tavern caught
Better than in the Temple lost outright.

LXVIII.
What! out of senseless Nothing to provoke
A conscious Something to resent the yoke
Of unpermitted Pleasure, under pain
Of Everlasting Penalties, if broke!

LXIX.
What! from his helpless Creature be repaid
Pure Gold for what he lent us dross-allay'd --
Sue for a Debt we never did contract,
And cannot answer -- Oh the sorry trade!

LXX.
Nay, but for terror of his wrathful Face,
I swear I will not call Injustice Grace;
Not one Good Fellow of the Tavern but
Would kick so poor a Coward from the place.

LXXI.
Oh Thou, who didst with pitfall and with gin
Beset the Road I was to wander in,
Thou will not with Predestin'd Evil round
Enmesh me, and impute my Fall to Sin?

LXXII.
Oh, Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make,
And who with Eden didst devise the Snake;
For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man
Is blacken'd, Man's Forgiveness give -- and take!

LXXIII.
Listen again. One Evening at the Close
Of Ramazan, ere the better Moon arose,
In that old Potter's Shop I stood alone
With the clay Population round in Rows.

LXXIV.
And, strange to tell, among that Earthen Lot
Some could articulate, while others not:
And suddenly one more impatient cried --
"Who is the Potter, pray, and who the ***?"

LXXV.
Then said another -- "Surely not in vain
My Substance from the common Earth was ta'en,
That He who subtly wrought me into Shape
Should stamp me back to common Earth again."

LXXVI.
Another said -- "Why, ne'er a peevish Boy,
Would break the Bowl from which he drank in Joy;
Shall He that made the vessel in pure Love
And Fancy, in an after Rage destroy?"

LXXVII.
None answer'd this; but after Silence spake
A Vessel of a more ungainly Make:
"They sneer at me for leaning all awry;
What! did the Hand then of the Potter shake?"

LXXVIII:
"Why," said another, "Some there are who tell
Of one who threatens he will toss to Hell
The luckless Pots he marred in making -- Pish!
He's a Good Fellow, and 'twill all be well."

LXXIX.
Then said another with a long-drawn Sigh,
"My Clay with long oblivion is gone dry:
But, fill me with the old familiar Juice,
Methinks I might recover by-and-by!"

LXXX.
So while the Vessels one by one were speaking,
The Little Moon look'd in that all were seeking:
And then they jogg'd each other, "Brother! Brother!
Now for the Porter's shoulder-knot a-creaking!"

LXXXI.
Ah, with the Grape my fading Life provide,
And wash my Body whence the Life has died,
And in a Windingsheet of Vine-leaf wrapt,
So bury me by some sweet Garden-side.

LXXXII.
That ev'n my buried Ashes such a Snare
Of Perfume shall fling up into the Air,
As not a True Believer passing by
But shall be overtaken unaware.

LXXXIII.
Indeed the Idols I have loved so long
Have done my Credit in Men's Eye much wrong:
Have drown'd my Honour in a shallow Cup,
And sold my Reputation for a Song.

LXXXIV.
Indeed, indeed, Repentance oft before
I swore -- but was I sober when I swore?
And then, and then came Spring, and Rose-in-hand
My thread-bare Penitence apieces tore.

LXXXV.
And much as Wine has play'd the Infidel,
And robb'd me of my Robe of Honor -- well,
I often wonder what the Vintners buy
One half so precious as the Goods they sell.

LXXXVI.
Alas, that Spring should vanish with the Rose!
That Youth's sweet-scented Manuscript should close!
The Nightingale that in the Branches sang,
Ah, whence, and whither flown again, who knows!

LXXXVII.
Would but the Desert of the Fountain yield
One glimpse -- If dimly, yet indeed, reveal'd
To which the fainting Traveller might spring,
As springs the trampled herbage of the field!

LXXXVIII.
Ah Love! could thou and I with Fate conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would not we shatter it to bits -- and then
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart's Desire!

LXXXIX.
Ah, Moon of my Delight who know'st no wane,
The Moon of Heav'n is rising once again:
How oft hereafter rising shall she look
Through this same Garden after me -- in vain!

XC.
And when like her, oh Saki, you shall pass
Among the Guests star-scatter'd on the Grass,
And in your joyous errand reach the spot
Where I made one -- turn down an empty Glass!

— The End —