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Terry Collett Apr 2016
Sister Paul stops by the door of her office, and halts Anne as she crutches herself along the passage of the nursing home.

I need to have a word with you, Anne, Sister Paul says, eyeing the twelve year old girl as she rests on her crutches.

What have I done now? Anne says, gazing at the nun with a sour face.

Nothing that I am aware of, the nun says, unless you have done anything I need to know about.

Anne shakes her head, of course not, you know me Sister, butter wouldn't melt in my mouth, Anne says.

The nun holds her tongue, after the meeting with Anne a few weeks back she had come to understand Anne better, if that was possible, and came to view Anne more of an imagined daughter, than a mere child come to the nursing home to recover from the amputation, but a daughter she was glad she didn't have in reality.

Will it take long? Anne says impatiently, putting her head to one side like a bird awaiting an early morning worm.

No not long, the nun says, gazing at the girl with as much patience as she can. The nun opens her door for Anne to enter, and the the girl crutches her way past her into the small room, and sits on a chair by the desk. The nun closes the door, and sits opposite Anne.

The girl studies the nun casually. What's it about then? Anne says, sitting back in the chair, rubbing her leg stump, trying to ease away the pain.

Doctor Maggee needs to see you, Sister Paul says.

What for? The girl says, her fingers rubbing along the stump.

About your leg, the nun says.

What about my leg? And which leg? Anne says, leaning forward, eyeing the nun.

The amputated leg, the nun says.

How can he see my leg when it isn't there no more, Anne says.

Sister Paul sits stiffly, and locks her fingers together as if to form a finger church. The doctor needs to see how the stump is healing, the nun says.

I don't want no doctor to touch my leg stump, Anne says, they’ve done enough with it as it is.

He needs to examine your leg, the nun says, to make sure it is healing.

I'm not letting a male doctor touch my stump, Anne says moodily, eyeing the nun.

You will not be on your own, myself or one of the other sisters will be with you, Sister Paul says.

Anne pulls her skirt over her stump, and puts her hands in her lap. I want the Kid with me, Anne says.

The nun frowns. What Kid is this? The nun says.

Benny, my friend, my only friend in this dump, Anne says gazing at the nun.

I'm not sure that would be allowed, the nun says, flexing her fingers, staring at the girl.

Then I don't see no fecking doctor, Anne says, rising up from the chair, grabbing her crutches.

Sister Paul closes her eyes, pushing the word from her mind. Language, Anne, please, no words like that.

They both sit in a moment's silence.

I'll see what the doctor says, and if he is happy for Benny to be with you while he examines your leg, then so be it, the nun says.

Anne sits down on the chair again, puts the crutches beside her.

Are you sure Benny would want to see your leg stump? The nun says, unlocking her fingers, and putting her hands flat on the table, palms downwards.

He's seen my stump many times, Anne says.

When has he seen your stump? The nun asks.

He sees it most days, sometimes he touches it, Anne says, defiantly.  

The nun reddens, and sits up straight, and stares at the girl. Why would he want to see your leg stump and touch it? Sister Paul asks, trying to ease away the redness of her face.

I said he could; he likes to see it, and touch it; after all, he is my friend, Anne says, pulling a face, as the pain tightens in her stump.

Is it painful? Your stump? The nun asks, seeing the girl wince.

Yes most of the time, Anne says, and sometimes my feet itch, and when I go to scratch them they're not there.

It is called a phantom leg, the nun says, the nerves think the leg is still there and tells the hand to scratch.  

Anne sighs. Well can he? Can Benny come with me when the quack sees my leg stump?

The nun raises her eyebrows. She studies the girl, the way she sits, the way she looks, and stares. A defiant child, she muses, one who would need a good bit of discipline if she were a child at the Catholic school, but here in the nursing home, different rules apply. I will have to see what the doctor says, the nun says.

No Benny, he don't see my stump, the quack, Anne says.

Sister Paul sighs softly, looks at the crucifix on the wall to her left, at the Christ hanging there, hands nailed to the wooden cross. Our Lord bore His pain for us, the nun says, it is thought to be an honour to share in His suffering, and pain, the nun adds gently.

I'd rather not share in any pain, I have enough of my own, Anne says, eyeing the old plaster Christ on a wooden cross.

Perhaps the pain you have already, is sharing in our Lord's suffering, Sister Paul says.

I don't want to share His pain or suffering, Anne says angrily, I want my leg back, and no fecking pain.

The nun closes her eyes, pushes the word away from her mind. We will see what the doctor says about you having Benny with you, and I will explain to the doctor how you feel, the nun says.

Anne reaches out and touches the nun's hand. It is soft, and warm, thin and clean. All right, Anne says, let me know. She stands up, and grabs her crutches, and begins to go, releasing sister Paul’s hand.

All right, the nun says, watching the girl crutch away, eyeing the sturdiness of the child, the strength in each movement away.

The door opens, and closes.

The child has gone. Sister Paul sighs, and inwardly, softly cries.
A TWELVE YEAR OLD GIRL AND A NUN IN A NURSING HOME IN 1959.
Terry Collett Apr 2015
Here Kid take this what is it? whats it look like? its a prayer book thing yes so take it and hide it under your jumper why? just hide the **** thing so Benedict hides the  black book with red ends under his jumper and follows Anne into the grounds out of the French windows Anne crutches herself across the grass and makes towards the round white table and chairs and plonks herself down in a chair tossing her crutches aside Benedict sits down in the next chair looking back towards the nursing home do you think we were seen? seen doing what Kid? walking across the grass no doubt liberating Sister Dumb-arses prayer book no Anne says Benedict turns around and stares at her dont keep looking around Kid or the penguins will guess youve been up to no good me been up to no good it was your idea to take the prayer book but youve got it Kid not me but you said take it and you did well done Kid Anne says smiling she rubs her leg stump and pulls the blue skirt down further what do we do now? Benedict asks looking at Anne tempted to turn around and look behind him sit tight Kid sit tight but I cant hide the book under my jumper all day he says pass it under the table to me so he passes the prayerbook to Anne under the white table and she opens it in her lap he looks at her his stomach tightening guess whose it is? Anne asks he shrugs dont know its only Sister Bridgets how do you know? has it got her name in it? no they dont own personal property its just that it has this prayer card in it with an image of St Bridget on one side and a prayer on the other and on the top shes scrawled Sr Bridget in her bird-**** hand writing God shell go ape he says looking round at the nursing home what do we do? shush Kid what do want them to know weve got it? he stares at the building imagines the nun galloping across the lawn towards them her black robes billowing behind her like Batman turn round Kid youll look suspicious he looks round and stares at her sitting in the chair as if butter wouldnt melt in her mouth on a hot day where are you going to put it? he asks out of the sight of their eyes she says where though? she pulls up her blue skirt and tucks the black prayer book in her navy blue underwear and pulls down the skirt and brushes out the any signs you cant keep it there he says why not my knickers she says are they going to search me there? she says now just go get my wheelchair and  we can go visit the sea out the back gate he sighs and wanders back towards the home trudging across the lawn leaving Anne sitting in the chair like some royal queen on her throne she lifts up her skirt and adjusts the book more securely just as well I wore the passion killers Mum bought me she says to herself and lets down the skirt again and sits staring towards the home as she sits a few of the kids come out and make their way to the swings and slide they know her and avoid her like a plague a nun comes out too Anne stares at her its Sister Lucy a young one green as grass more ****** that the Blessed ****** herself Anne says under breath the nun walks towards Anne her hands inside her black habit how are we today Anne? the nun asks smiling my ****** leg aches Anne says o dear the nun says looking at Annes leg visible under the table have you seen Sister Paul about some pain killers? no not yet Anne says anyway its not this leg its the one not there my stump leg o I see Sister Luke says staring at the unseen stump beneath the blue skirt I could pray for your leg if you would like me to the nun says might help Anne says putting on her pious pose its hurts so much I feel like crying she allows tears to dribble out of her eyes(shes an expert of conjuring tears out of her eyes) o my dear child the nun says coming around the table and placing a hand around Annes shoulders Ill ask Sister Paul about some tablets the nun says thank you Anne whimpers feeling the prayer book move slightly as she moves in the chair she tries to adjust it with her hand to a more secure position Benedict comes across the lawn pushing the wheelchair he sees the nun and his eyes enlarge and he senses danger have they suspected Anne already about the missing prayer book? he wheels the chair behind Anne the nun looks at him arent you a good boy she says yes hes my best friend Anne says smiling through the glassy eyes the nun smiles well I best get back Ill see Sister Paul about those pills the nun says and walks off towards the home that was close Benedict say she didnt mention the prayer book Anne says she just came about me and the ****** leg and offering prayers o I see he says gazing at the stump area thinking about the stump of her leg hes seen many times are you going gawk at my stump all day or are you going to help get in the ****** wheelchair? o right yes he says and helps her get from the chair and into the wheelchair holding it steady at the back make sure the prayer book doesnt slip out of my knickers Kid she says as she rises from the chair and plonks into the wheelchair she moves the book to a more comfortable position and pulls her skirt down pass her knee just as they were about to move away Sister Bridget comes across the lawn towards them like a rhino on heat hang on Kid here comes the penguin wait wait the nun says raising a hand Benedict pauses pushing the wheelchair and stares at the approaching nun keep cool Kid Anne says under her breath act innocent as the Pope at a nudist colony Benedict feels himself perspire the nun stands in front of Anne in the wheelchair a prayer book has gone missing the nun says gazing at Anne has it? Anne says in an innocent tone yes it was taken from the Common Room shall we help look for it? Anne asks have you seen it? the nun asks no not that I know of whats it look like? Anne asks as if butter wouldnt melt a prayer book is what it looks like the nun says eyeing Anne with her suspicious eyes black cover with red ends no cant say I have Anne says Benedict looks away at the trees behind of them at the avenue between them and you Benedict have you seen it? the nun asks staring at him her eyes over him like maggots he shudders no sister not seen it at all he hates lying to  a nun he feels as if she looks into his soul and at the minor sins lurking there like naughty children then the nun looks down in Annes lap gazes at the outline of the leg stump not hiding it are we? the nun says hiding what? Anne says my stump? no I tried hiding it but its always there each morning I wake up the nun screws up her eyes and peers at them both no I mean the book where is it? no idea Anne says Benedict looks down at Annes lap where have you hidden it? the nun says havent seen it Anne says one of the children says she saw you take it the nun says me? Anne says you cant take the word of child I believe what the child tells me Benedict looks at the outline of the leg stump the child says you have it about your person she saw you from the upper bedroom window the nun says sternly must be mistaken must have seen me rub my stump they always watch me rubbing it so nosey the nun sighs and gazes at Annes lap and at the stumps outline show me your leg stump? the nun says hands on her hips Anne pulls up her skirt to reveal the stump Benedict looks too wondering if the book outline could be seen under the knickers the nun looks away where have you put it? put what? the book the prayer book the nun says I havent seen it Anne says as innocent as she can muster innocence lies will get you to Hell the nun says and walks off across the grass like a bad tempered bear what now? Benedict says Anne takes the book out of her knickers and hands it to him warm and scented what do I do with it? he asks shove it on that other chair under the table and were off to the beach so he puts the book under the table and pushes Anne off in the chair off out of reach.
A BOY AND GIRL IN  A NURSING HOME IN 1959 SUSSEX.
Terry Collett Dec 2015
Anne rubbed
at her stump
it was sore

and her toes
(which weren't there)
were hurting

Benedict
gazed at her
and her leg

where her skirt
had risen
it looks red

the boy said
shall I tell
Sister Paul?

**** her Kid
she's no good
she couldn't

find her ****
with both hands
Anne said

well who then?
the Kid said
staring hard

at the stump
glimpse of white
knickers edge

the thin nun
with a face
like ghost

Anne said
so the Kid
left Anne

and her stump
and raced back
to the white

and black brick
nursing home
racing past

other kids
on his way
Sister Luke

was standing
in the hall
come quickly

the Kid said
Anne's stump
is all red

and hurting
Sister Luke
gazed at him

her dark eyes
searching him
is this true?

it's not one
of her games
she's playing?

the nun said
Benedict frowned
no it's real

I've seen it
the Kid said
going red

it's all sore
you've seen it?
seen her stump?

the nun said
she showed you?
yes she did

the Kid said
(but didn't
say about

the knickers
that he'd seen)
Sister Luke

stared at him
she shouldn't
show you that

the nun said
that's private
not for boys

maybe not
but please come
the Kid said

going red
it's painful
so the nun

followed him
on the lawn
where Anne

was sitting
in her chair
stump showing

red and sore
and knickers
that the Kid

never said
that he saw.
A GIRL AND BOY IN A NURSING HOME IN 1959.
Terry Collett Feb 2015
The Kid sits
opposite
the wheelchair

with Anne
telling him
about her

painful leg
when it aches
it frigging

drives me mad
she tells him
she pulls up

her red skirt
to show him
the naked

stump of leg
yet it aches
in the part

that's not there
she explains
he gapes at

the fleshy
stump of leg
why is that?

he asks her
how the heck
would I know

pull that down
this moment
the nun says

angrily
coming near
from the home

her black and
white habit
flapping quick

about her
Anne stares
at the nun

what's got your
white knickers
in a twist?

she utters
to the nun
who do you

think you are
showing off
your leg stump?

she yanks down
the red skirt
to cover

the leg stump
don't touch me
you penguin

Anne says
decency
my young girl

you Benny
why are you
watching her?

the nun asks
I showed him
where it hurts

Anne says
you shouldn't
show your leg

it's my leg
what is left
don't be rude

the Kid looks
at the nun
just looking

what she showed
just her stump
he explains

you mustn't
the nun says
anymore

doing that
young Anne
and I'll tell

Sister Paul
and the nun
walks away

her habit
flapping slow
about her

as she walks
what a dumb
arsed penguin

Anne says
they both watch
the young nun

as she walks
on the lawn
to the home

for sick kids
by the sea
anyway

that's my leg
or the stump
do you want

another
look and see?
a girl shows a boy her leg stump in a kid's home in 1958.
unnamed Feb 2012
Robert Jordan
Ofelia

One

Sing, my forest. Sing, groans. Sing, snapping. Sing life and wild, sing trees, sing limbs that course and bend thick with sap and soil-blood. Sing, my child. Sing, my sweet love and dirt and life. Sing, sweet death, sing, sing.

Two

Find *Robert Jordan
. Find Robert Jordan in my forest among my kind limbs and find his breath, find his breathing through thick growth and his steps delicate upon the paths of tender dirt and find these paths great in number that wind as veins through the forest body.

Find* Ofelia. Find Ofelia in my forest among my kind limbs and find her breath, find her breathing through thick growth and her steps delicate upon the paths of tender dirt and find these paths great in number that wind as veins through the forest body.

Three

Robert Jordan and Ofelia sit upon the stump of a dead tree in the depths of a clearing in the forest. The stump is monumental in size. The diameter of the stump is that of a building. Robert Jordan and Ofelia used hatchets to make gashes into steps in the side of the stump and in this way climbed to the top. The top of the stump has been worn smooth like glass. The forest surrounds the clearing in its thickness and is heavy in every direction and curves up above them and to the center like a temple would and the top of this temple is many hundred feet above them. Robert Jordan and Ofelia sit on top of the stump and in the center, facing opposite directions, his back touching hers and her back touching his, rigid, perfect posture, legs crossed, their respective hatchets bridging the gap between their respective knees, blades shining in a dull silver light that hangs about their forest’s temple as any fog hangs about any forest. In the forest surrounding them hang many mossy vines. The vines weave through the trees and connect them and carry themselves through each other as webs though without order. Robert Jordan and Ofelia see the silver light illuminate the edge of the forest around them and the trees and vines there and they are sure the pattern continues through the deep forest though they cannot see into it fully. In the deep of the forest around them through the silver fog hang hundreds of small red lights that sit at every different level in the forest from the forest floor up through the canopy many hundred feet above them. The small red lights look as small eyes do and are perfectly circular though do not appear so in the silver light. The red eyes glint as far-away lights do when these lights are out of focus and so have the same dagger-shaped spires that extend from the center and outward in various numbers. They eyes reflect into and off of the hatchets and stretch themselves along the length of the blades. Ofelia opens her mouth slightly to speak. Robert Jordan knows her mouth has opened. Robert Jordan knows her breath comes from the forest and knows that with its drawing she also draws in the silver light of the clearing and the small red lights of the eyes around them and small parts of the forest suspended in their midst. Ofelia ventures to speak and invites these things to enter and live within her and that in her body, though only slightly, is where part of the life of those things now reside. Ofelia knows what Robert Jordan knows. Ofelia continues to speak:
Terry Collett Mar 2016
Anne watched the Kid
walk back to the nursing home,
across the lawn
and past the white round tables,
past the swings and slide.

She'd told him,
Kid don't mention my name
when you ask the nuns
about ***** hair, OK?
she had added.

I want it to be as if you
were just interested,
she had said.

Ok, I will, he said,
and was gone across the lawn,
with hands in his pockets,
a determined look
on his young,
11 year old face.

Anne rubbed her leg stump;
it was sore and hurt;
her none existing
toes itched.

She watched until he
had disappeared inside
the nursing home.

After a little while
the Kid walked out
of the French double windows,
crossed the lawn,
past the slide and swings,
and sat on a chair
by the round table,
where Anne sat
in her wheelchair,
her red skirt pulled up,
rubbing the leg stump.

Well, what did
the penguins say?
she said.

The Kid sighed.

Sister Blaise went red
in the face and said,
why are you asking
such a question and why
would I be interested?

What did you say, Kid?
Anne said,
rubbing her stump.

The Kid eyed her stump,
red and fleshy.

I said that Colm
had asked me
and I needed to know,
the Kid said.

Anne scratched
the leg stump.

So what else did
she say?
Anne said.

The Kid looked away
from her leg stump
and into her eyes.

She said it was
the hairs that grow
in certain places
on the body.

That all?
Anne said.

The Kid nodded,
and stared at her leg again
and glimpse of white underwear.

Didn't say which
part of the body?
she said.

He shook his head
and said,
no, just blushing said
it was hair in certain
parts of the body.

So none the wiser?
Anne said.

None the wiser,
the Kid said,
looking at the white table.

Never mind, Kid,
she said,
pulling her red skirt
over her leg stump,
let's go to the beach
and discuss it later.

The Kid got up
and wheeled
the wheelchair away
from the table and chairs
and along the narrow path,
between the avenue of trees
and out the back gate,
and along by the beach,
him pushing the wheelchair.

Anne breathed in the air,
hands in her lap,
and said,
sniff that fecking air, Kid,
this is where I live best,
this is where we came from,
the fecking salty sea.

The Kid pushed the chair
and sniffed the air,
listened to the sea sound
and seagulls,
look over Anne's shoulder
at the one leg bouncing
slightly up and down
as he pushed the chair,
sniffing in the deep
the salty sea air.
A BOY AND GIRL IN A NURSING HOME IN 1959 IN ENGLAND.
Terry Collett Jul 2016
The doctor examined
Anne's leg stump
in the small room

Sister Paul was there
looking on
and the Kid was there
staring at the stump
he'd seen many times before

are you all right Benny?
the nun said

yes just looking
how the stump is doing
he said

Anne smiled at him
and then glared
at the quack
then the nun

seems to be healing well
the quack said
rubbing it gently
with his fingers  

well get your *******
fingers off now
Anne said
now you've seen it
and fingered it

Anne that is enough
bad language
sorry doctor
she has her
bad days

the doctor stared at Anne
not sure he'd heard
the words correctly
and reddened

o no problem
must be painful still
but it is healing nicely
he said
moving away from Anne
and her leg stump

he looked at Benny
your her friend?

yes her best friend
Benny said

my only friend
in this place
Anne said

the nun sighed
and the doctor
followed her out
of the room
leaving Anne
and Benny alone

glad you were there Kid
can't abide quacks
at the best of times
let alone when they're
******* you leg stump
and peering up your dress

Benny stared
at the stump still  
sorry it hurts you
he said

pain's pain Kid
it's how you
cope with it
that matters

she pulled the red dress
over the stump
and said
pass me my crutch Kid
and lets get out
of this torture chamber
and go down to the beach
and sunshine and gulls
and sand and away
from this lot

Benny passed her
her crutch
and helped her up
and he followed her
along the passageway
as she crutched
at quite a speed

we'll go to the beach Kid
once I've peed

he waited
by the loo door
as she went in
and he wondered
if the **** word
was a sin.
A 12 YEAR OLD GIRL AND 11 YEAR OLD BOY AND A NUN AND DOCTOR AT A LEG EXAMINATION IN 1959
Terry Collett Nov 2014
Anne rubbed the stump
of her amputated leg.

She sat in her wheelchair.

I sat opposite
wondering what
it must be like
to have one leg.

Pull your skirt down,
the nursing nun said,
it's indecent
to show off
your leg like that.

Anne stared at the nun.

My leg hurts,
she said,
rubbing it,
helps it.

Where does it hurt?
the nun asked.

Everywhere
even the toes hurt,
Anne said grumpily.

The leg
has been amputated,
so how can it hurt?
the nun said,
now pull the skirt
over the stump,
Benedict doesn't
want to see
your stump.

I didn't mind,
but I said nothing;
I looked at the nun's
black habit,
her thin features,
her pointed nose,
thin lips.

Anne pulled the skirt
over her stump slowly.

It's my stump,
I should be able
to show it
to whom ever I want,
anyway, Benny likes
gawking at my stump,
he does it
all the **** time.

The nun gazed
at Anne in silence;
then at me.

Your manners
need to be brought
into line, young lady,
if you
were at my old school,
you would learn manners
or else.

Anne sat back
in her wheelchair.

But I’m not
at your old school,
I’m in a nursing home
after the butcher’s job
the doctors did
on my leg,
she said.

The nun's features stiffened.

I looked at Anne
and her tilted head
and the hidden stump.

There are many
complaints about you,
the nun said,
from other children
and the other
sister nuns;
we will report you
to the nursing home
authorities,
the nun said.

Anne said nothing,
but looked
at the swings
where other children
played.

I sat looking
at the nun,
her hands hidden
in the pockets
of her habit.

She walked off stiffly
across the green grass.

How about her,
Kid, huh?  

I gazed
at the walking off nun.

Guess she was
a bit annoyed,  
I said.

So what, Kid,
who gives a cat's ***
what they think or say?

I shrugged.

Push me to the beach,
she said,
get me away
from these penguins, Kid,
off to the sea.

So I pushed
the wheelchair down
the avenue of trees,
anything for Anne,
anything to please.
A BOY AND GIRL AND A NUN AT A NURSING HOME IN 1950S IN A SEASIDE TOWN.
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.
Mateuš Conrad May 2020
. h'america is as much an ideology as is... islam... this... the best... pig-farmed english you could somehow... not teach... not have mustered from a slav... a pseudo-russian... inconvenience ego... contender? satellite pawn: your... *****-slave yugoslav bourbon... excavations of: the lost flood of mongolian: tribe-folk... the pakistani with the surname: khan... your peoples... prior... no-guilt... island strapped... peruvian conquistadors... or... better strapped... less the cerveza folk... more... the belittled sort of: sorting folk... blah blah...

it's honestly hard to write anything -
when one is still... shell-shocked...
fromwhat could be cited as a devil's decade:
13 years...
                 from the age of 21
through to: aged 34...
            one of those relationship remainders...
we both got into smoking...
well... she was well ahead of me
in the cigarette domain...

       no... however i will attire the event...
whatever verbiage...
it doesn't allow a "justice" to trickle down...
it just so happens that i want
to listen to some depeche mode...
and not some tool / porcupine tree...

13 years of smoking... from the nadir of
40 a day... locotomotive breath...
iron on the tongue... phelgm pancakes
harked in the morning from
a tobacco "hangover"...

                  oscilating around 20 per day...
for some time...
and all it took was a week... 10 days...
and i'm still in possession of 3 cigarettes...
and those two i reserve for the end
of the day ritual...
    smoking the first is like:
finding oneself with a belly-full of
a child of gravity...
otherwise: gravity... unless falling...
to look up at the stars and the moon
and the sea: it's something you don't
exactly feel with two feet strapped
to the orb... no movement of
the tectonic plates...
sometimes with *******...
index and middle... of the left hand...
pushed under the right arm-pit...
to feel the pulse of the arteries...

i hardly think this is a call for celebration...
13 years can disappear like...
nothing even took place...
to substitute the habbit with...
reading... playing video games?
nibbling on carrots... nuts...
or just... waiting for the tide to recede...
and for a sea of patience to come
with tomorrow's tide...

all that... and none of it...
at the end of the day... the two cigarettes
are like a metaphor fo crack *******
or syringe strapping imitation
leech...
        clear thinking: or therefore none...
no spaghetti muddles...
at best: imitation of biting into ice...
or... stretching a rubber-band until...
well: you can't feel it about to snap...
since it snaps...

                 a second gravity...
                all concentrated in the stomach...
and esp. when the legs have not been
"properly" used up...
but remain tight-and-fidgety with goosebumps
when the ****** of tobacco lines the nerves...

i don't know why i can't celebrate this...
it's such a private event... such an exslusivity...
after all... in linear fashion:
to experience speed... a concentrated
exploration of space... within a hyper-dictum
of time...
        in a linear way...
but a second gravity: without falling?
but otherwise whirling in the stomach?

a devil's decade: 13 years...
              3 more... otherwise a dozen...
which is only 1 more...
the devil's dozen...
          simon peter, andrew, james, john, philip,
bartholomew, matthew, thomas,
james son of alphaeus, simon the zealot,
judas son of james and judas iscariot...
count hey-zeus out of the equation...
                                               there's paul...

and that's what eminem does...
when rapping... on white h'america?
changes the subject - a personal tirade over...
somehow i too link certain aspects...
13 years of...

this... oh so mediocre...
           because: clearly... i don't know what
to make of it...
                 thank god i retained those
two cigarettes at the end of the day...
than have been hooked on nicorette chewing
gum / patches...
                or the usual "a.a." support...
support: "support":
         help yourself: by every single
and no dead or alive guru...
            
                i really don't have anything
to write...
                 i'm walking away from
a 13 years of tobacco addiction...
   and what i'm really thinking about...
the first thirsts of cold-turkey are long gone...
it's been under a week...
over a week... whatever...

             what i'm really thinking about...
well...
   how would it feel like...
to farm animals...
                  how does it feel to... pet animals...
a completely different dynamic...
after all... a farmer would own...
petting-worth animals...
like a cat... for... catching mice...
or a dog... to... warden... sphynx...
cerberus... watch-over the property...
how some would make the dogs
so ferocious... that a chain would
sometimes not be withstanding
to the ferocity of the barking...

           eh... it's slightly off-putting...
to pet animals...
when you're being given a factory
edit of the original moo!
  or snorkling in knee-deep-**** and mud
and rotten potatoes of pork...
i don't mind... the end product
is what interests me...
the **** is silk? tapeworm ****?!
or there-abouts...
       but... it's so much different...
when you... farm animals...
     lucky for me... my... somewhat...
immediate family still owned a farm...
and chickens in the yard...
oh yeah... catching a chicken is one thing...
amnesia of the chicken shack...
catch one... sure thing...
then with axe onto the stump...
head sticks to the stump...
last traces of life while the eyes roll back
and the tongue protrudes from the beak...
while... all the other chickens gather...
and start drinking the blood...

a bit like the two tiers of people...
some people must feel inclined to become
these... sociopathic farmers...
there are the humans you herd...
there are the humans you pet...
the ones you pet will probably find about
you herding them...
and rebel... since... you're not...
some gargantuan: ****** obvious...
miracle of a god descent... crown, pomp...
circumstance... all that was borrowed
from god... in splendour... heavens!
lo! behold... versailles was built!

the future charles III of england...
started 8pm today... on classic.fm with his own show...
i tuned in for a minute or two to hear
his voice...
      i do hope that when ol' lizzie is dead...
he doesn't cower... he dons! he dons the title:
charles the third!
  i ****** well hope... he doesn't become...
no... he can't become: george VII...
formerly known as charles: the prince of wales!
he has to be! charles the third!
he has waited this long!
he has to retain his name!

but that's the beauty of the monarchy...
it's so ******* pompous and omnipresent...
it doesn't hide... in... secular... grey-matter
of deep-state... there are just too many tiers
of power... even though... there's only symbolism...
but a reverence for it: nonetheless!
grey-matter of shadow-people in grey suits!
blinking: for god's sake! blinking black-holes
of hush hush: what was once...
the aristocracy... that's too replaced with...
the burden of crazed-loon bureaucracy!

i've quit smoking... well... "quit"...
2 cigarettes from 20 a day... circa...
  is much better than a nicorette patch...
         or some: pepperspray tasting chewing gum...
it's not a cigar... if you were asking...

but the original idea...
    farming animals...
             petting animals...
                    dogs... the ideal pets...
i'm sorry... i can't put on a leash or a muzzle...
a chihuahua can bite like a piranha...
i don't see the excuses needed to comfort
people afraid of big dogs... alsatians...
dobermans... that's the freedom allowed with cats...
if you get a chance to build their characters...
they will tend to take a dump in your
neighbour's garden...
yes... me... following sherlock feline...
with a black plastic bag and *****...
permission to... be allowed entry into your garden?
or are you... going to trebuchet that ****
back onto my lawn?

dogs or "petting" tarantulas? serpents?
the idea of petting went out of the window...
when... people started to fathom the...
what adjective?! to pet a ******* tarantula...
yes... me... running to the shop that sells
tarantulas... with caption: free tow-twos...
how about you keep that freak-****
in the jungle with all those gimp-suit sexed-up
antics... and i... get to...
farm a chicken... i get to... farm a pig?

no... of course no... although...
who couldn't be teased with latex jill and her
spider annex: library of "misdeeds"
for the library of: hard-ons...

now that you mentioned it... sure... i have a...
pressing concern... how to not...
over-cook pork...
see... pork is a bit like pasta...
you can serve it undercooked like beef...
but... it's also like chicken...
and beef... combined... you don't want
to serve it... overcooked...
only barbarians are fond of well-done beef...
probably arab...
    they only stomach well-done steaks
or minced beef...
they have no palette for tartare steaks...
too much inbreeding with stinking lamb
does the trick...
whatever they might say of pork...
the aesthetic meat... leather too... shoes and belts...
lamb? for the slaughter?
eh... stinking puritanical meat worthy
of teacher 'ebrew and righteous son:
mecca ibn sudan.

because... ha ha... it's one thing being racist...
you know... detailing the physiognomy
differences between blacks and whites...
choccies and porky pies...
and the cinnamon people in between...
that's one thing...
it's like everyone was asleep...
the whites were racist...
the only people... ever...
but that's one thing...
   i find it harder to digest...
there's no name for it...
  kosher-ism... halal-ism?
         to be... more racist than racist...
almost a vegan / vegetarian taming...
   someone is being critical... of what you eat...
i imagine... malcom x being given a free
pass as a black totem in mecca...
shot dead... when converted... because...
still shuffled pork on the sly...

beside skin deep: please leavde your leather
shoes and belts... lace
beside the concept / concern for the mosque...
racism: morphed into an ideological
manifest...
for a while... let us leave thse
turban and tent dwelling folk
with their newly acquired riches
to the ***** of:
if i am to prepare lamb meat...
i treat it liky chilly...
the meat... stinks of something beside...
death... innocence prescribed...

           you are told... wrong...
when ingesting the fruit of eden... somewhat...
these nomads of quasi-sikh turbans
for the women: the niqab girdle-grooms...
their wetted-appetites:
unable to satiate gyrocentrism leftovers...
and... pass from the living...
toward the theatre of the would be alive...
less the circumcised mess: misantrophes...

it's one thing to be chockie...
another to be porky-pink'ish...
     but what you eat?
that's... somehow... off-putting?
    puritan with some crab-meat
in this numbed jaw?
no one the persians rebelled against
the camel-jockey prescription of:
words only... no images...
pasta squiggles of phonetic encoding...
arabic... tironian a posteriori notations...
then again: one could argue:
tironian a priori notations...

shrimp-**** and eyes that would
resemble... at best... squinting from too much
sun... and at worst... ******* on a lemon...
12" of **** and the twelve-pounder
juicing worth of ***...
her ***...
                for me to comment
on the mongol horde esque libido of
the fellow woman of my race...
no... the islamic idea of a heavenly harem...
mind you: it would satisfy her:
if she was to be crowned the juggling act
of three: at least one to compete with
the da vinci sodomites...

to be told you can't eat something...
i'm already a bad joke as:
"bweetish" as it comes...
tucked away with the afro-saxon...
the anglo-slav...
                 you just have those lips
that look like full-bloom best:
imitation: floral patterns of a ******...
best equipped for *******...
i swim: you sink...
you run... i start an arithmetic of catching
my breath...
the cinnamon people are...
if they are equipped with a polytheism
of the raj... and are saved with
culinary ambitions...
"we'd" call them the blue indians...
and that's also: to mind...
their elder: sanskrit...
              पअरउत
र - or how the englishman lost the trill:
rattle-snake R: for rolling...
when he... became: the nuanced... keeper...
vanguard... of the Raj...
perhaps... the anthropomorphic genesis
in africa: givenz zee apulus... apex: gorrilolulz...
but... the sribbles and *******?
india the basin... akapit: paragraph:
the tear of sri lanka...

i.e. so much for me succumbing to the anglican:
we'z all wo'z allz: ex afri-ka'ka'kazia...

oh sure... sure... we... the sensible:
secular post-christians of the protestant wealth
of the west...
happy to afford the dumbed-down
congregations of the newly conscripted...
believers of africa and south h'america...
carrot dangling: run donkey! run!
one of your own: a pope! a cardinal!
poland is still running on that...
remark of... the passing of power...
the first pope to be given status of... saint...
john paul II the saint of:
kissing airport tarmac...

             and then of course...
the hyped intricacy of the orthodox branch
of the bureau of hierogylphics and
synonymous litanies...
          the events of the baltic sea:
would never be...
the sort of ****-show...
that... the events of the mediterranean sea...
hell... the events of the black sea...
christianity isn't merely dumb...
it's just... over-hyped...
               the pork the pork... the pork!
who would require...
a criticism of pork and pig and ms. porky
to suit... alliance...
no matter... i'm on the cusp of quitting
smoking...

we can caricature our physiognomy...
but... how do you... caricature...
what you eat... your... sustenance?
you, black... have a pillow for a nose...
me, white... have a death's lack of...
           i don't have a nose...
i have... a death's clench sucker...
       i have a pinch nose...
        so much for over-inflated lips...
and... my missing... elongated...
myth elves: the protruding ears...
like: no body...

                 current / the currency of
the now h'america... and the immediacy
of nostalgia: as a history: moving forward /
anywhere but back...
nietzsche opened up a nostalgia for ancient
greece...
  h'americans... opening up... a nostalgia...
for 1950s h'america...
how can you write a future history...
from a stand-point / stand-off...
of nostalgia...
this... immediacy of nostalgia...
who's who and who isn't citing...
a richard brautigan... or... a frank o'hara?!
because: there's the sucker and no punch
for the next verse of...
****'s sake... walt whitman?!
o captain! my... john keating...
                 no... it's not about glorifying
the original intent... mr. president...
the english teacher...
mr.! thomas! bunce!

               how can any history be written...
when there's... a nostalgia: impediment...
the hsitory of an immediacy
lacklutered by a past...
the past: however framed...
before... the dead are allowed to
turn and grovel in their graves...
i have 'ere... my gobble-whick of...
pretending: no shadows will
ever exist... at noon...
scrathing... timidy bed-fellows...
loitering squat...

we are to grovel for the cousin
imps and apes of: first born:
english born... navajo...
     tortilla...
the old fling of england...
and the spanish...
             the conquistadors...
loose nouns dog **** flinging applause:
i fall asleep in a bed:
i welcome the new day...
most... egregious (archaic)...

  these western lands...
mmm... they're not very much akin
to our flavour...
that they dictate... refurbishment...
unless it's para-english...
alter- proto- welsh...
  kashubian... masovian...
silesian...
                    kres...
                    
ei hhynnal coch.. and it:
pronouns neutral: does... ****-wit...
gender-fluid-retardo: perfecto...

and i too wish i had...
themes of crusader songs...
but... i have none...
these that i marked...
teutonic knights of no order...
       barbarossa being pickled...
livonians... prussians...
lithuanians...
                    i'm sorry...
that i'm too far away from
you to return to europe
from your: hubris...
             in crafting... the...
                conscripts: shikhs...
ask the russians! ask the rush-******-whips!
agony of a tongue: beside their own!
the post-colonial powers
return!
the post-colonial powers! make a return!
so much for those of us...
not having... a colonial past!
are we to pay for... such...
benevolent gracing
of gratitude from the people
"made"... under... colonial... rule?!
from the perspective of the strong...
why... am i... expected to treat
these care-bears with...
the right: equipped
manchester shovel?

          you spike my drink
or am i... to... simply...
take the right, godly ****...
into all the urns...
the rest of you are to drink from?

i see my forehead glee: akin to my elbow...
and i call that phenomenon:
something benevolent of *****....
yep... not s'unni... but... shyte...
****.. persian: rebellion of camel-jockey...
****'ite... macron i...
dot's the worthy due: guillotine...
echo of the baltic sea...
we somehow: managed...
to lessen the romance...
unlike the english...
the romans conquered:
romanced the ******...
the vikings conquered...
romanced the ******...
the mongols never made it...
nor the huns..
so much for "brexit":
with your lineage of currency...
and your status as an island...

glory! vistory! ******* and all!
because: best felt!
in... places... akin to... devon!
a londoner will abhor someone...
with origins in the vicinity of bristol...
like... because...
there's no other?

n'ah... this night is pretty much worth
all the other nights...
it's worth sleeping...
it's not worth... whatever: leftover...
"worth" of...
this... this "apparent"...
yep... leftover... be...
something for the worth of yale
h'american... or...
dignitary president...
              officiated cul de sac executive orders...
it's... such an anglo-saxon fetish for...
*** beside the boudoir...
    dodo, lilac... gimp... latex...
      dickens...
                  liberty at:
i feign to allow myself to have... lapsed...
in what? good question...
even i... do not... attempt to baron
myself: over;
pithy... not pity... me...
you god-sucker...
******* ******* son's of eire...
me good-son...
    term me: years! under...
the tsarina! *******...
new yawn-ker...
       big mouth... no new bullseye...
the same old manchester...
the same ol'...
porky pies...
the same ol' chimneys and:
love's all... at cul de sac:
southend... porky pie munch:
luvvie: ol' guv.

yem: yup... ol' groove.. zzz-tizzle...
smart bruiser:
geezer with a sneeze pops up
at random places and jokes...
retards... lobotomy cruiser...
rhymes like... a cockey...
prior... to... tourettes... the lost...
the last... and what's:
the remains of...
the always... last...
and the worst... told... chalk of joke.
se relationship remainders...
we both got into smoking...
well... she was well ahead of me
in the cigarette domain...

       no... however i will attire the event...
whatever verbiage...
it doesn't allow a "justice" to trickle down...
it just so happens that i want
to listen to some depeche mode...
and not some tool / porcupine tree...

13 years of smoking... from the nadir of
40 a day... locotomotive breath...
iron on the tongue... phelgm pancakes
harked in the morning from
a tobacco "hangover"...

                  oscilating around 20 per day...
for some time...
and all it took was a week... 10 days...
and i'm still in possession of 3 cigarettes...
and those two i reserve for the end
of the day ritual...
    smoking the first is like:
finding oneself with a belly-full of
a child of gravity...
otherwise: gravity... unless falling...
to look up at the stars and the moon
and the sea: it's something you don't
exactly feel with two feet strapped
to the orb... no movement of
the tectonic plates...
sometimes with *******...
index and middle... of the left hand...
pushed under the right arm-pit...
to feel the pulse of the arteries...

i hardly think this is a call for celebration...
13 years can disappear like...
nothing even took place...
to substitute the habbit with...
reading... playing video games?
nibbling on carrots... nuts...
or just... waiting for the tide to recede...
and for a sea of patience to come
with tomorrow's tide...

all that... and none of it...
at the end of the day... the two cigarettes
are like a metaphor fo crack *******
or syringe strapping imitation
leech...
        clear thinking: or therefore none...
no spaghetti muddles...
at best: imitation of biting into ice...
or... stretching a rubber-band until...
well: you can't feel it about to snap...
since it snaps...

                 a second gravity...
                all concentrated in the stomach...
and esp. when the legs have not been
"properly" used up...
but remain tight-and-fidgety with goosebumps
when the ****** of tobacco lines the nerves...

i don't know why i can't celebrate this...
it's such a private event... such an exslusivity...
after all... in linear fashion:
to experience speed... a concentrated
exploration of space... within a hyper-dictum
of time...
        in a linear way...
but a second gravity: without falling?
but otherwise whirling in the stomach?

a devil's decade: 13 years...
              3 more... otherwise a dozen...
which is only 1 more...
the devil's dozen...
          simon peter, andrew, james, john, philip,
bartholomew, matthew, thomas,
james son of alphaeus, simon the zealot,
judas son of james and judas iscariot...
count hey-zeus out of the equation...
                                               there's paul...

and that's what eminem does...
when rapping... on white h'america?
changes the subject - a personal tirade over...
somehow i too link certain aspects...
13 years of...

this... oh so mediocre...
           because: clearly... i don't know what
to make of it...
                 thank god i retained those
two cigarettes at the end of the day...
than have been hooked on nicorette chewing
gum / patches...
                or the usual "a.a." support...
support: "support":
         help yourself: by every single
and no dead or alive guru...
            
                i really don't have anything
to write...
                 i'm walking away from
a 13 years of tobacco addiction...
   and what i'm really thinking about...
the first thirsts of cold-turkey are long gone...
it's been under a week...
over a week... whatever...

             what i'm really thinking about...
well...
   how would it feel like...
to farm animals...
                  how does it feel to... pet animals...
a completely different dynamic...
after all... a farmer would own...
petting-worth animals...
like a cat... for... catching mice...
or a dog... to... warden... sphynx...
cerberus... watch-over the property...
how some would make the dogs
so ferocious... that a chain would
sometimes not be withstanding
to the ferocity of the barking...

           eh... it's slightly off-putting...
to pet animals...
when you're being given a factory
edit of the original moo!
  or snorkling in knee-deep-**** and mud
and rotten potatoes of pork...
i don't mind... the end product
is what interests me...
the **** is silk? tapeworm ****?!
or there-abouts...
       but... it's so much different...
when you... farm animals...
     lucky for me... my... somewhat...
immediate family still owned a farm...
and chickens in the yard...
oh yeah... catching a chicken is one thing...
amnesia of the chicken shack...
catch one... sure thing...
then with axe onto the stump...
head sticks to the stump...
last traces of life while the eyes roll back
and the tongue protrudes from the beak...
while... all the other chickens gather...
and start drinking the blood...

a bit like the two tiers of people...
some people must feel inclined to become
these... sociopathic farmers...
there are the humans you herd...
there are the humans you pet...
the ones you pet will probably find about
you herding them...
and rebel... since... you're not...
some gargantuan: ****** obvious...
miracle of a god descent... crown, pomp...
circumstance... all that was borrowed
from god... in splendour... heavens!
lo! behold... versailles was built!

the future charles III of england...
started 8pm today... on classic.fm with his own show...
i tuned in for a minute or two to hear
his voice...
      i do hope that when ol' lizzie is dead...
he doesn't cower... he dons! he dons the title:
charles the third!
  i ****** well hope... he doesn't become...
no... he can't become: george VII...
formerly known as charles: the prince of wales!
he has to be! charles the third!
he has waited this long!
he has to retain his name!

but that's the beauty of the monarchy...
it's so ******* pompous and omnipresent...
it doesn't hide... in... secular... grey-matter
of deep-state... there are just too many tiers
of power... even though... there's only symbolism...
but a reverence for it: nonetheless!
grey-matter of shadow-people in grey suits!
blinking: for god's sake! blinking black-holes
of hush hush: what was once...
the aristocracy... that's too replaced with...
the burden of crazed-loon bureaucracy!

i've quit smoking... well... "quit"...
2 cigarettes from 20 a day... circa...
  is much better than a nicorette patch...
         or some: pepperspray tasting chewing gum...
it's not a cigar... if you were asking...

but the original idea...
    farming animals...
             petting animals...
                    dogs... the ideal pets...
i'm sorry... i can't put on a leash or a muzzle...
a chihuahua can bite like a piranha...
i don't see the excuses needed to comfort
people afraid of big dogs... alsatians...
dobermans... that's the freedom allowed with cats...
if you get a chance to build their characters...
they will tend to take a dump in your
neighbour's garden...
yes... me... following sherlock feline...
with a black plastic bag and *****...
permission to... be allowed entry into your garden?
or are you... going to trebuchet that ****
back onto my lawn?

dogs or "petting" tarantulas? serpents?
the idea of petting went out of the window...
when... people started to fathom the...
what adjective?! to pet a ******* tarantula...
yes... me... running to the shop that sells
tarantulas... with caption: free tow-twos...
how about you keep that freak-****
in the jungle with all those gimp-suit sexed-up
antics... and i... get to...
farm a chicken... i get to... farm a pig?

no... of course no... although...
who couldn't be teased with latex jill and her
spider annex: library of "misdeeds"
for the library of: hard-ons...

now that you mentioned it... sure... i have a...
pressing concern... how to not...
over-cook pork...
see... pork is a bit like pasta...
you can serve it undercooked like beef...
but... it's also like chicken...
and beef... combined... you don't want
to serve it... overcooked...
only barbarians are fond of well-done beef...
probably arab...
    they only stomach well-done steaks
or minced beef...
they have no palette for tartare steaks...
too much inbreeding with stinking lamb
does the trick...
whatever they might say of pork...
the aesthetic meat... leather too... shoes and belts...
lamb? for the slaughter?
eh... stinking puritanical meat worthy
of teacher 'ebrew and righteous son:
mecca ibn sudan.

because... ha ha... it's one thing being racist...
you know... detailing the physiognomy
differences between blacks and whites...
choccies and porky pies...
and the cinnamon people in between...
that's one thing...
it's like everyone was asleep...
the whites were racist...
the only people... ever...
but that's one thing...
   i find it harder to digest...
there's no name for it...
  kosher-ism... halal-ism?
         to be... more racist than racist...
almost a vegan / vegetarian taming...
   someone is being critical... of what you eat...
i imagine... malcom x being given a free
pass as a black totem in mecca...
shot dead... when converted... because...
still shuffled pork on the sly...

beside skin deep: please leavde your leather
shoes and belts... lace
beside the concept / concern for the mosque...
racism: morphed into an ideological
manifest...
for a while... let us leave thse
turban and tent dwelling folk
with their newly acquired riches
to the ***** of:
if i am to prepare lamb meat...
i treat it liky chilly...
the meat... stinks of something beside...
death... innocence prescribed...

           you are told... wrong...
when ingesting the fruit of eden... somewhat...
these nomads of quasi-sikh turbans
for the women: the niqab girdle-grooms...
their wetted-appetites:
unable to satiate gyrocentrism leftovers...
and... pass from the living...
toward the theatre of the would be alive...
less the circumcised mess: misantrophes...

it's one thing to be chockie...
another to be porky-pink'ish...
     but what you eat?
that's... somehow... off-putting?
    puritan with some crab-meat
in this numbed jaw?
no one the persians rebelled against
the camel-jockey prescription of:
words only... no images...
pasta squiggles of phonetic encoding...
arabic... tironian a posteriori notations...
then again: one could argue:
tironian a priori notations...

shrimp-**** and eyes that would
resemble... at best... squinting from too much
sun... and at worst... ******* on a lemon...
12" of **** and the twelve-pounder
juicing worth of ***...
her ***...
                for me to comment
on the mongol horde esque libido of
the fellow woman of my race...
no... the islamic idea of a heavenly harem...
mind you: it would satisfy her:
if she was to be crowned the juggling act
of three: at least one to compete with
the da vinci sodomites...

to be told you can't eat something...
i'm already a bad joke as:
"bweetish" as it comes...
tucked away with the afro-saxon...
the anglo-slav...
                 you just have those lips
that look like full-bloom best:
imitation: floral patterns of a ******...
best equipped for *******...
i swim: you sink...
you run... i start an arithmetic of catching
my breath...
the cinnamon people are...
if they are equipped with a polytheism
of the raj... and are saved with
culinary ambitions...
"we'd" call them the blue indians...
and that's also: to mind...
their elder: sanskrit...
              पअरउत
र - or how the englishman lost the trill:
rattle-snake R: for rolling...
when he... became: the nuanced... keeper...
vanguard... of the Raj...
perhaps... the anthropomorphic genesis
in africa: givenz zee apulus... apex: gorrilolulz...
but... the sribbles and *******?
india the basin... akapit: paragraph:
the tear of sri lanka...

i.e. so much for me succumbing to the anglican:
we'z all wo'z allz: ex afri-ka'ka'kazia...

oh sure... sure... we... the sensible:
secular post-christians of the protestant wealth
of the west...
happy to afford the dumbed-down
congregations of the newly conscripted...
believers of africa and south h'america...
carrot dangling: run donkey! run!
one of your own: a pope! a cardinal!
poland is still running on that...
remark of... the passing of power...
the first pope to be given status of... saint...
john paul II the saint of:
kissing airport tarmac...

             and then of course...
the hyped intricacy of the orthodox branch
of the bureau of hierogylphics and
synonymous litanies...
          the events of the baltic sea:
would never be...
the sort of ****-show...
that... the events of the mediterranean sea...
hell... the events of the black sea...
christianity isn't merely dumb...
it's just... over-hyped...
               the pork the pork... the pork!
who would require...
a criticism of pork and pig and ms. porky
to suit... alliance...
no matter... i'm on the cusp of quitting
smoking...

we can caricature our physiognomy...
but... how do you... caricature...
what you eat... your... sustenance?
you, black... have a pillow for a nose...
me, white... have a death's lack of...
           i don't have a nose...
i have... a death's clench sucker...
       i have a pinch nose...
        so much for over-inflated lips...
and... my missing... elongated...
myth elves: the protruding ears...
like: no body...

                 current / the currency of
the now h'america... and the immediacy
of nostalgia: as a history: moving forward /
anywhere but back...
nietzsche opened up a nostalgia for ancient
greece...
  h'americans... opening up... a nostalgia...
for 1950s h'america...
how can you write a future history...
from a stand-point / stand-off...
of nostalgia...
this... immediacy of nostalgia...
who's who and who isn't citing...
a richard brautigan... or... a frank o'hara?!
because: there's the sucker and no punch
for the next verse of...
****'s sake... walt whitman?!
o captain! my... john keating...
                 no... it's not about glorifying
the original intent... mr. president...
the english teacher...
mr.! thomas! bunce!

               how can any history be written...
when there's... a nostalgia: impediment...
the hsitory of an immediacy
lacklutered by a past...
the past: however framed...
before... the dead are allowed to
turn and grovel in their graves...
i have 'ere... my gobble-whick of...
pretending: no shadows will
ever exist... at noon...
scrathing... timidy bed-fellows...
loitering squat...

we are to grovel for the cousin
imps and apes of: first born:
english born... navajo...
     tortilla...
the old fling of england...
and the spanish...
             the conquistadors...
loose nouns dog **** flinging applause:
i fall asleep in a bed:
i welcome the new day...
most... egregious (archaic)...

  these western lands...
mmm... they're not very much akin
to our flavour...
that they dictate... refurbishment...
unless it's para-english...
alter- proto- welsh...
  kashubian... masovian...
silesian...
                    kres...
             ­       
ei hhynnal coch.. and it:
pronouns neutral: does... ****-wit...
gender-fluid-retardo: perfecto...

and i too wish i had...
themes of crusader songs...
but... i have none...
these that i marked...
teutonic knights of no order...
       barbarossa being pickled...
livonians... prussians...
lithuanians...
                    i'm sorry...
that i'm too far away from
you to return to europe
from your: hubris...
             in crafting... the...
                conscripts: shikhs...
ask the russians! ask the rush-******-whips!
agony of a tongue: beside their own!
the post-colonial powers
return!
the post-colonial powers! make a return!
so much for those of us...
not having... a colonial past!
are we to pay for... such...
benevolent gracing
of gratitude from the people
"made"... under... colonial... rule?!
from the perspective of the strong...
why... am i... expected to treat
these care-bears with...
the right: equipped
manchester shovel?

          you spike my drink
or am i... to... simply...
take the right, godly ****...
into all the urns...
the rest of you are to drink from?

i see my forehead glee: akin to my elbow...
and i call that phenomenon:
something benevolent of *****....
yep... not s'unni... but... shyte...
****.. persian: rebellion of camel-jockey...
****'ite... macron i...
dot's the worthy due: guillotine...
echo of the baltic sea...
we somehow: managed...
to lessen the romance...
unlike the english...
the romans conquered:
romanced the ******...
the vikings conquered...
romanced the ******...
the mongols never made it...
nor the huns..
so much for "brexit":
with your lineage of currency...
and your status as an island...

glory! vistory! ******* and all!
because: best felt!
in... places... akin to... devon!
a londoner will abhor someone...
with origins in the vicinity of bristol...
like... because...
there's no other?

n'ah... this night is pretty much worth
all the other nights...
it's worth sleeping...
it's not worth... whatever: leftover...
"worth" of...
this... this "apparent"...
yep... leftover... be...
something for the worth of yale
h'american... or...
dignitary president...
              officiated cul de sac executive orders...
it's... such an anglo-saxon fetish for...
*** beside the boudoir...
    dodo, lilac... gimp... latex...
      dickens...
                  liberty at:
i feign to allow myself to have... lapsed...
in what? good question...
even i... do not... attempt to baron
myself: over.
Terry Collett May 2014
I stood in line
to be weighed
in the bathroom
of the nursing home

Anne crutched herself
behind me
you haven't
got a chance in hell

of winning
that chocolate bar Kid
she said
I've seen more meat

on a butcher's pencil
stuck behind his ear
might win
I said

might fly
she said  
the kid in front of me
got on

the green metal scales
and the nun
moved the weight
along the top

not you Malcolm
she said
the kid got off sulkily
I got on the scales

and the nun
moved the weight
I looked at her
black and white

headdress
her pinched features
not you Benny
she said

I got off
and walked away
Anne awkwardly
got on the scales

holding herself
on her one leg
the stump
of the other

hanging there
best so far Anne
the nun said
told you Kid

you didn't
have a chance
guess not
I said

as she crutched herself
along side of me
not to worry
if I get the choco bar

I’ll give you
a quarter for being
a good friend
no other

in this *******
gets a look in
we went along
to our rooms

come in Kid
she said
I hesitated
come in

I want to
ask you something
I stood swaying
uncertain

what if
one of the nuns
comes along?  
what if I don't give you

quarter of the choc bar?
she said
I followed her in
to the girls dorm

no one else
was there
just she and me
she closed the door

with her backside
right Kid
I want you
to do me

a favour
favour?
I said
sensing uncertainty

hit my gut
yes I want you
to sneak along
to the kitchen tonight

and liberate
some biscuits
liberate?
I said

biscuits?
yes you know
what biscuits are
don't you

those hard things
with cream in the middle
or chocolate
on one side

I know what biscuits are
I said
but what do you mean
liberate?

take some
from the big tin
they have
on the shelf

in larder
take?
I said
you mean steal?

steal
take
liberate
whatever word

you want
to use Kid
what if I get caught?
don't get caught

but what if I do?
Anne sighed
sat on the edge
of her bed

I thought you
were someone
I could rely on Kid
not some cowardly custard

yellow belly
I looked
at her leg stump
sticking out

the other leg
reached to the floor
if you're really good
I’ll let you touch

my stump
she said
no need
I said

I'll try tonight
sneak down
after lights out
good Kid

she said
she took my right hand
and lay it
on the stump

and held it there
it felt warm
and soft
she let my hand go

good huh?
wish the rest
was there
she said

off you go
and don't get caught
I nodded
and backed out

of the room
seeing her cover
the stump
with her dress

and smile
see you
I said
you bet

she said
I walked away
thinking
of the big steal

of biscuits
unthought through
by my 10 year old brain
as yet.
A BOY AND ONE LEGGED GIRL IN A NURSING HOME IN THE 1950S
Terry Collett Jul 2013
Anne sat in the wheelchair
in the huge back garden
of the nursing home.
The stump of her leg ached,

the one good leg rested
on the footrest. She rubbed
the stump as if this might
ease the aching. She’d get

Skinny Kid to push her out
of the back gate when she saw
him, he was one of the few
kids who seemed to like her,

and often did things for her
where others wouldn’t.  
The little girl named Sadd
was like a fairy: thin, gaunt

looking, whose shoulder blades
stuck out like small wings.
She was on one of the swings
being pushed by one of the

nursing nuns. Where was
Skinny Kid? she mused. His sister
was over by the slide going up
and sliding down. The boy called

Malcolm was hiding in and out
of the avenue of trees playing
war games with some other boy
with a snotty nose. She wheeled

herself along the stony path.
How’s your leg? a girl with burn
scars on her arms and shoulders asked.
Why don’t you ask the fecking leg,

Anne replied roughly. The girl stared
at the impression of the stump just
under Anne’s dress. I’ll tell Sister
you swore, the girl said. Go kiss your

****, Anne said. The girl ran off and
Anne wheeled herself a little more
along the path. Then she spotted him,
Skinny Kid, coming out of the French

windows at the back of the nursing home.
Hey, Kid, she bellowed, over here.
Benedict walked over to where Anne
was sitting, her hands on the wheels

of the chair.  What did you want?
he asked. Push me out the back gate,
she said, I can’t stick being out here
with all theses kids. Ok, he said and

pushed her along the path, between
the avenues of trees to the back gate.
Where are we going? he asked as they
reached the gate and he opened it up

and pushed her through. Along by
the beach, I need the sea air, need
to fill my lungs with it, she said.
He pushed her along, his arms

feeling her weight, his legs like
small pistons. Thanks, she said,
for helping me in and out of the
bath the other night. That’s ok,

he said, recalling her calling him
into the bathroom the other night,
she standing on her one leg by the
bath in a white towel. Help me in

Kid, she had said, I don’t want
one of those nuns touching me while
I bath. He had helped her in trying
to avoid looking at her naked body

as she put her leg over then he had
to ease her down making sure the
stump didn’t bang against the bath rim.
He closed his eyes, having caught a

glimpse of the stump on its way into
the water. He pushed the wheelchair
along the smooth path, avoiding the
other people, trying to hear her mouthed

instructions, watching the top of her
dark haired head. She had said he had
to wash her back in the bath as she
couldn’t reach and he did it softly not

wanting to scratch her or such. Harder
than that, Kid, she had said, I want to
feel the skin rubbed not fecking tickled.
So he scrubbed harder, looking at her

neck and her damp hair.  Hey, Kid,
she said breaking into his thoughts,
got any money on you? I’ve  got half
a crown, he said. Then buy us two ice

creams, Kid, over there, the guy who
looks Italian in that van. So he pushed
her over to the van and bought two
ice creams with strawberry sauce and

he sat on the wall with her parked
beside him licking their ice creams
in silence except for the sound of gulls
and the sea going in and out pushing

the waves up the shore, she watching
the Kid, his tongue white with ice-cream,
his eyes bright as summer. Her stump
ached still; she’d get the Kid to rub it after

the ice creams; feel his hands on her skin,
as she sometimes dreamt, he did in her dreams.
Based on episodes at a children's nursing home by the sea in 1958.
Joliver Apr 2017
Viridian moss
A dead stump
An empty hollow
Giving life a home

Ants marching
Red and black
Their insignificant war fought
Over crumbs
Snails oozing along
Mice scurrying
All in the warm damp embrace
Of the wizened old stump
A haven and a battleground
A home and a tomb
Once standing tall
Now a ruin

Little stump in the woods
Your story is more immense
Than we can comprehend
A saga of storms weathered
Fires endured
Creatures inhabited
Until finally the hatchet spilt
Your lifeblood sap
Upon the coarse dirt
Where life began anew
Stump in the woods
I thank you
For your unspoken wisdom
Terry Collett Aug 2016
Anne and the Kid
were sitting in chairs
on the lawn next
to a small round
white table.

Sister Paul
(the head nun)
walked across the lawn
towards them,
her black habit
flapping as she came.

What's the penguin
want now?
Anne said.

The Kid stared
at the nun
who approached them.

I want a word
with you both,
the nun said.

A word each
or one between us?
Anne said.

The nun stared at her,
then stood gazing
at them both.

You Anne are not
to show your
leg stump off to Benny,
and you Benny
are not asked to do so,
do you understand?
She said.

It's my leg stump,
Anne said,
I can show it
to whom I wish,
and if the Kid wants
to see it, then he can.

The nun stared
at Anne:
I am forbidding you
to do so, and as head nun
of this nursing home,
what I say goes,
the nun said firmly.

What if I show the Kid
my leg stump
when no one is around
how are you going
to check on that huh?
Anne said defiantly.

The nun stared at Benny:
now listen carefully, Benny,
it is a sin to look
at girls' leg stumps,
and if you disobey
you could go
to Purgatory
or worse to Hell.

Benny looked
at Anne.

She smiled:
he don't care a ****
about your hell or purgatory;
whenever he wants
to see my **** leg stump
he can, and I’ll show him
when he wants,
Anne said,
sitting up in the chair
grimacing as pain
shot along her leg.

If you disobey
my orders Anne,
you could go
there too,
the nun said.

Anne stared
at the Benny:
listen Kid if
you want to gape
at my stump,
then just you tell me
and you can
gape any time.

The nun slammed
her hand down
on the white metal
table top;
the sound echoed
along the lawn;
birds took flight,
other children
on swings and slide
looked over,
or hid or went off
to hide.

You will do
as I say
my girl or else.

The nun walked away
towards the huge house;
her black habit
flapped like a big
black bird in flight
and out of sight.

Anne said:
bring me a glass
of lemonade Kid
and a straw.

Ok,
he said,
and wandered off
towards the house.

She sat and rubbed
her leg stump
with her hands.  

The other kids
went about
their fun and games
on swings and slide.

She watched the Kid
returning slowly,
with glass of lemonade
to be by her side.
A BOY AND GIRL AT A NURSING HOME RUN BY NUNS IN 1959.
Terry Collett Mar 2015
Anne rubs
her leg stump
to ease pain

Skinny Kid
watches her
sitting there

in the black
old wheelchair
can I help?

he asks her
kneeling down
best not Kid

if the nuns
are watching
they'll be here

like black bats
at dusk time
Anne says

the Kid stares
as she rubs
the leg stump

still painful?
he asks her
yes it is

she replies
kiss it Kid
kiss the stump

he studies
the fleshy
stump of leg

will it help?
sure it will
she suggests

looking up
at the home
where the nuns

nursing nuns
are at work
other kids

play about
swings and slide
coast is clear

kiss it now
she whispers
he puckers

his small lips
and kisses
the leg stump

Anne laughs
get off Kid
you're tickling

making me
**** myself
he removes

his small lips
from her stump
well done Kid

that's better
the pain's gone
looking up

she sees there
across grass
rushing close

a young nun.
A BOY AND GIRL IN A CHILDREN'S NURSING HOME IN 1950S
raen Jul 2012
A busy road.
A tree stump.
An old man.

Everyday at eight 'o clock
He sits there, cane tapping
just watching cars go by--
I among them

Such a lonely man,
I say to myself

Same busy road.
Same tree stump.
Same old man.

He looks up, cane twirling
and smiles at me
in that split second
I smile back

A roadside friend is gained.

Same busy road.
Same tree stump.
Different old man.

Day after day
He waves hi--cane dancing
Smiling
I wave goodbye,
no time to stop

Same busy road
Same tree stump
No old man

I screech to a halt
Ask of his absence

Clutching
a piece of paper
found taped on his cane
I weep in my car
and send a prayer
of thanks
to my roadside friend

Eleven words
Changed my world.
"Thank you lady in the blue car.
You make my day."

Same busy road.
Same tree stump.
Different me.
2008
Terry Collett Oct 2014
I sat next to Anne
on the lawn
by the round white table
after breakfast

she was rubbing
the stump of her leg

I ate my toast

Sister Bridget
came over to us

what was all the fuss
last night?
she asked Anne
staring at her
with stern eyes

my leg hurt

your leg has been amputated
there is no leg
the nun said

it still hurts
even if it isn't
****** there
Anne said

language
I will not have
bad language
the nun said

I said ******
that's not a swear word
I should know
I’m an expert
in foul language
Anne said

you did not
have to make such a fuss
you woke up
the other children
in the dormitory
and Sister Elizabeth said
you used
foul language then

Anne shifted in the chair
rubbed her stump

I finished my toast
gazed at them both

it hurts here too
Anne said
raising her skirt
to reveal the stump

put your skirt down
the nun said firmly
Benedict doesn't want
to see your stump

I looked away
carrying the sight
of her stump with me

he doesn't mind
he's always gawking
at my leg
Anne said

enough of that
the nun said

that's what I tell him
but he doesn't listen
Anne said
poking me
in the ribs smiling

I don't
I said
looking at the nun
with my Mr Innocent features

I suggest young lady
you go to see Sister Agnes
about some painkillers
for the pain
the nun said
avoiding looking at me

I will
Anne said

and better manners my girl
the nun said
and walked off
across the lawn

silly old crab
Anne said
here give me your hand
and she shoved my hand
on her stump
and rubbed it
back and forth

I tried to pull
my hand away
but she held it there

don't fuss so Kid
take it as
the pleasure it is

I watched the nun stop
over by the slide
and talk to two other kids
sensing my hand moving
over warm skin

if the old bat saw this
Anne said
she'd call it
a ****** sin.
A BOY AND GIRL IN A NURSING HOME IN A SEASIDE TOWN IN 1950S.
The colors grow dim with the night
And the light of day will fade.
Sitting crosslegged on a stump
I bid my farewell with a wave.

My palm is hollow for yours;
There's a stump by my side.
My partner, how you wandered –
You wavered into a lie.

How I wish I could revive
The connection we shared, my dear,
And how, you'd never wave goodbye–
For you promised to stay near.
Terry Collett Apr 2014
Anne put her crutches
by the table
on the lawn
and sat next to me

how's it going Kid?
ok
I said
what's for breakfast?

porridge or cereal
or toast
I said
no egg and bacon

and sausages?
she said
no
I said

**** me
she said
who eats toast
or porridge

or  cereals?
pass me a glass
and pour me
some of that

orange muck
I poured her
a glass of orange juice
and put it

by her hand
she sipped it
I've tasted better
she said

I want you
to push me
down to the beach
later Kid

can't stick
being stuck
with these other kids
they drive me

up the wall
with their
goody-two-shoes
nonsense with the nuns

especially Sister Paul
the stuck up *****
I looked back
towards the nursing home

other kids
were sitting about
other tables
and here and there

a nun was attending
to them
got any more wine gums
from your mother?

she asked me
no they've gone
Sister Bridget took them
to share

amongst the others
****** communist
she said
I looked at her

sitting in the chair
her one leg visible
the stump
of the other leg

hidden beneath
her blue dress
the dress had little
anchors and boats

on it
had your look Kid?
she said
you're always trying

to look at my stump
aren't you?
I can't help it
my eyes are drawn

to the missing leg
I said
she lifted her dress
and showed

the stump of leg
have a good look Kid
I looked at the stump
then looked away

towards the windows
of the nursing home
when do you want
to go to the beach?

I asked
as soon as I’ve had breakfast
she said
she pulled down

her dress to cover her stump
and sipped the juice
the red ribbon
in her dark

straight hair
had come loose.
A ONE LEGGED GIRL AND A BOY IN 1950S NURSING HOME.
There is a stump with a lawn chair on top in a yard with dirt,

no one knows how it got there, like a cheesy line insert,

some say the Gods struck it down upon yonder tree stump,

other folks say the lawn chair was dipped in the same stuff as Achilles,

that was some reason left at the dump,

but lock in a bond they are,

through wind and winter,

they locked tight as if holding hands in a ***** bar,

you may ask me what I think in some way or another,

but I think they are lovers frozen in bodies that never feel the sacrifice of weather,

holding onto what they can that stay still,

you may ask once again,

and I both despise and love their will.
Wrote in '10 had to put a chair on a stump my dog would jump onto, and somehow it stayed up there for a year surviving the elements of Nevada, wrote this in month 9 of that beautiful image.
Terry Collett May 2016
Anne wheeled herself out
of the nursing home,
and out onto the lawn,
almost knocking Cam
(a young boy) over
in her path,
she was followed
by Sister Paul in flight,
her black habit flapping
as she walked.

Anne stopped wheeling
at a white table,
and turned
to face the nun.

The nun approached
out of breath,
you must let the doctor
see your leg,
the nun said.

Not if the Kid isn't there,
Anne said.

The doctor doesn't think
it ethical,
the nun said.

No Kid, no looking
at my amputated leg stump,
so it's up him,
Anne said.

He needs to see
how it is healing,
the nun said,
standing over Anne,
hands inside her
black and white habit,
and you ought not
have shown your leg
to Benedict,
it isn't ethical
to do so.

He was interested,
so I showed him,
Anne said,
and he helped me
get in the bath and out,
and he's my best friend,
and ****** ethical.

Sister Paul winced
at the lewd word,
and tried to push it away
from her mind.

He's a 10 year old boy,
the nun said.

I'm a11 year old girl,
so what?
Anne said.

The nun closed
her eyes momentarily.

Anne looked past the nun
towards the nursing home,
and hoped Benny
would come out,
and see what
was going on.

The doctor will not
allow Benedict to be there;
he said it would
not be ethical,
the nun said slowly.

No Benny, no gawking
at my stump then,
Anne said firmly,
what, you going to get
the sisters to hold me down
while that medical clown
touches my amputated leg?

The nun gazed at her,
and sighed,
why do you need
Benedict there?

Because he's my friend,
and I feel safer
if he is there,
Anne said,
anyway he'll only
be seeing my leg stump,
nothing between my legs,
Anne said,
eyeing the nun
for her response.

Anne that is being
crude and rude,
Sister Paul said.

Anne turned around,
and gazed down
towards the avenue of trees
at the end of the garden.

No Kid, no quack
seeing my stump.

The nun walked away,
visibly with the ****.
A 11 YEAR OLD GIRL AND A NUN IN A NURSING HOME IN 1959.
Terry Collett Sep 2018
Hey Kid hold this,
Anne said.

Benny took
her artificial leg
while she rubbed
her leg stump.

It seemed odd to him
holding a leg.

**** the leg,
she said.

Benny looked
at the stump.

Looks red,
he said.

****** sore
where it rubs.

See Sister Paul
about it.

**** her
the penguin.

She looked at Benny.

Wish I never saw
the ****** leg.

She stood up
with the aid
of her crutch
and the red dress
fell over the stump.

What shall I do
with your leg?

He held it
towards her.

Dump it
in my dormitory
and meet me
on the lawn.

She crutched off
along the passage.

He carried the leg
to her dormitory
and laid it on her bed
and walked out
on to the lawn.

Sister Rose was talking
to Anne who was sitting
on a white chair.

He stood there
and listened.

So why have
you not
put on your leg?
Sister Rose asked.

My leg's sore
so I have left it
off to heal.

Have you asked
Sister Paul?

No it's my
stump and leg
not hers,
Anne replied.

She will not
be pleased
about this.

Benny sat on the chair
next to Anne.

I will have to
inform her.

Do what you like.

The nun walked off
like a dejected rook
in black.

Let's go to the beach
away from the fecking penguins,
she said to the Kid.

So he walked beside her
as she crutched between
the avenue of trees
towards the back gate.

He gazed behind them
but no one seemed
to see them
so moved away
to the beach
far from the nuns' sight
or reach.
A boy and girl in London in a nursing home in 1959
Sparrow Junk Jun 2017
I came across a tree stump
Upon I placed my sorrow
Hoping that it would grow
back as a weeping willow

Wanting for it to hold snow again
Descending from its head to mine
To feel the cold down my spine
A gift from the tree's branch line

But this stump is all that's left
Of a tree that once stood tall
from before I learnt to crawl
I am saddened to see it fall

I feel the rage of ocean storms
Bubbling inside of my chest
Now with nowhere that I can rest
Cursing the stump as all that's left

But amongst this frozen ground
I spot a sapling making its way
And I knew that there'd be a day
When things would become okay
I can't help but feel saddened when I see trees cut down, especially when it seems like it's been done for cosmetic reasons rather than it becoming ill or anything. I never know what to do after as the stump won't grow again but planting more trees seems like a good start
Cut
for Susan O'Neill Roe

What a thrill ----
My thumb instead of an onion.
The top quite gone
Except for a sort of hinge

Of skin,
A flap like a hat,
Dead white.
Then that red plush.

Little pilgrim,
The Indian's axed your scalp.
Your turkey wattle
Carpet rolls

Straight from the heart.
I step on it,
Clutching my bottle
Of pink fizz. A celebration, this is.
Out of a gap
A million soldiers run,
Redcoats, every one.

Whose side are they one?
O my
Homunculus, I am ill.
I have taken a pill to ****

The thin
Papery feeling.
Saboteur,
Kamikaze man ----

The stain on your
Gauze Ku Klux ****
Babushka
Darkens and tarnishes and when
The balled
Pulp of your heart
Confronts its small
Mill of silence

How you jump ----
Trepanned veteran,
***** girl,
Thumb stump.
Terry Collett Mar 2012
Anne crutched her way
from the large house

onto the lawn
where you sat with your sister

and a girl called Monica
recovering from burns

can anyone sit here
or only two legged freaks?

she asked
you don’t have to be rude?

said Monica
shut your mouth Scarface

and pull me up
a ******* chair

Anne said bluntly
you mustn’t swear

Monica said
I shall tell Matron you swore

go **** a lemon
between you legs

Anne replied standing
pulling a face

Monica and your sister
got up from the small white table

and ran off towards the swings
and left you gawking at Anne

and at her flowery dress
which came to her knees

revealing space
where a leg should have been

had your look?
Anne said looking at you

sitting in the chair
sorry

you replied
just realized

you’ve only got one leg
well stop gawking

and pull me up a chair
she said

you got up
and pulled out a chair

behind her
and she sat down with a sigh

and you sat down again
still ******* hurts

even though its not there
she said giving you a stare

what happened to your leg?
you asked

it went for a walk
and never came back

she replied
pour me a glass of juice

she ordered
and you poured her

some orange juice
into a tall glass

and gave it to her
thanks for being a saint

she said and drank a gulp
of juice then put

the glass down
on the table

and you still stared
at her missing leg

when she said
want to see the stump?

And with that
she pulled up her dress

and showed her stump
and the outline

of her white underwear
you looked at her face

and flushed a little
she pushed her right hand

through her black hair
and smiled

you should be honoured
it’s not everyone

I show my stump off to
or my ******* either

she said in a Mae West
imitational voice

thank you
you muttered softly

still carrying the image
of her leg stump

and white ******* with you
as you looked away

at the sun coming over
the tall trees and gulls

flying in the blue
morning sky

and apart from the sound
of the sea there was only

her deep painful sighs
and you (imagined)

her staring
deep blue eyes.
George Krokos Dec 2010
Aborigines and kangaroos
boomerangs and didjeridoos.
Leafy gum tree branch and koala bear
black stump in the middle of nowhere.
Jolly swagman camped by a billabong
in 'Waltzing Matilda' a favourite song.
The wild brumbies roaming free in the outback
a scruffy hobo living alone in a country shack.
Aboriginal myths called their dreamtime
the native Australians regard as sublime.
Ring-tailed possum and wombat
aussie bloke wearing akubra hat.
Alice Springs and Ayers Rock
outback stations and livestock.
Ned Kelly bushranger and his law brushes
the Eureka stockade during the gold rushes.
Laughing kookaburra and old man emu
platypus swimming in underwater view.
Banjo Patterson’s poem ‘The Man from Snowy River’
who went riding down mountain side without a quiver.
Surfers paradise and the Great Barrier reef
sixties rock ‘n roll legend: Johnny O’Keefe.
Anzac marches and the land of the Southern cross
old Cobb & Co. stagecoach used to travel across.
Glorious summer sunshine and winter rains
severe country drought and the desert plains.
Eucalyptus scent and Tea-tree oil
good health remedies from the soil.
Fresh water yabbies and the witchety grub
all make good tucker in the bush or scrub.
Crocodiles in the Kakadu national park
Burrumundi and the great white shark.
Sydney harbour bridge and the Opera House
Daintree rain forest and the kangaroo mouse.
Sheep wool farming and old shearing sheds
Melbourne Cup horse race for thoroughbreds.
Riverboat cruising up and down the Murray
passing border country towns not in a hurry.
Cradle mountain and the Tasmanian Devil
saying ‘fair dinkum’ means it’s on the level.
AFL rules football and big crowds at the MCG
playing one day cricket there is exciting to see.
The Fitzroy Gardens and Captain Cook’s cottage
are there for all to see as symbols of our heritage.
The Twelve Apostles standing along a rugged stretch of coast
a Ninety-Mile beach is something about which we can also boast.
The Glass House mountains are a sight to see and even to climb
by those who consider themselves fit enough and in their prime.
The great Australian Bight and the road on the Nullarbor plain
is a great feat to drive across and be able to come back again.
The local native wild dog known by name as the Dingo
has nothing to do with a game people play called Bingo.
There’s also a game called two-up that some people play
by which they gamble most of their weeks wages away.
Luna Park in St.Kilda and the annual Royal Melbourne Show
are places where you can take the kids to have fun people know.
There’s the local pub where you can go and have a drink with your mates
and is what many do all day long having a few too many in all the States.
This great southern land of Australia has so much to see and to offer
it would be a ****** shame if one didn’t give a **** or was a scoffer.
_________
Private Collection - written in 2002
One Winged Angel


Dec 10, 2011, 7:39:29 PM by ~OmegaWolfOfWinter
Journals / Personal




It was very late, and Lucian had just gotten back from his assignment. he unlocked the door to his house and set his things down on the bed. he removed his shirt and removed the bandages on his chest. that demon put up quite a fight... he put on a robe and decided to get some rest. he set his things down on the floor next to him and hung his sword by the bed. he exhaled deeply and relaxed, finally back in the comfort of his own home. sleep quickly enveloped him and he began to dream.
******
Lucian was woken from a deep sleep by the sound of his door breaking down. Two massive angels shrouded in black cloaks stepped inside his room as Lucian scrambled to his feet, feeling a sudden chill beneath his simple white robe. One of the angels spoke, "Lucian, Elite Angel number 373-14, you are under arrest for high treason, grand theft, and ******."
Lucian was dumbfounded at the accusation. "What on heaven are you talking about?!"
the guard-angels grabbed the warrior-angel and dragged him out of his house and onto the streets where a small crowd had gathered. They escorted him to the capitol, which wasn't far away. Lucian gazed up at the massive black monolith before him.
He was immediately sent to the rooftop, where the Punisher was waiting.
Lucian desperately tried to explain. "I've been set up!! Please let me go! I've done nothing wrong!!"
The angel to his left looked at Lucian in disgust. "Quiet, you."
He reached to Lucian's throat and he felt a massive bolt of electricity course through his body. He collapsed in their arms and blacked out for a moment.
He couldn't say anything; he had a sign of silence on his throat. He blacked out again and when he woke he was on his knees in front of the punisher. His hands were bound behind his back and he was held by a multitude of chains and braces. The guard-angel touched his throat and the seal of silence was removed. "elite angel Lucian, number 373-14, you are charged with high treason against the holy city, grand theft of a holy artifact and the murders of 7 holy officials, as punishment-"
"I didn't do any of those things!!!"
"SILENCE!! There is evidence that places you at the scene."
"What-"
"your punishment, you will lose your wings," Lucian gasped and tears formed in his eyes. "...and will be given the Mark of Eternal torture."
"No! Not the Mark!! Please no!!"
The punisher stepped forward and drew his slender sword. As he stepped forward, Lucian squirmed and fought against his bindings but to no avail. "God help me!"
"How dare you speak the lord's name, criminal!" the punisher slashed at Lucian's throat, grazing it and leaving a long, bleeding cut. Lucian groaned and said, "No... No... Please..."
the punisher stepped to Lucian's side and raised the sword. Lucian's tears came and began hyperventilating. "No, NO, NOO!!!"
The punisher brought the sword down and Lucian screamed in agony as one of his wings fell to the ground. Lucian was in so much pain, he wished he could die right then, right there. He was crying now, tears of sorrow and pain. "No, please, I beg you! Have mercy!"
For some reason the punisher then sheathed his sword. "Fine, you may keep your remaining wing."
"th-thank-" he was cut off as the punisher knelt down and grabbed Lucian's throat. He screamed again as he felt an intense burning. He continued to cry out as the punisher released him but the burning remained, slowly spreading over his entire body with such intensity that he lost consciousness multiple times. after an excruciatingly long torture, the burning ceased, and Lucian saw that it had etched runes and twisting lines over his whole body, almost his whole body, it had left his head and hands untouched. His voice had turned into a hiss and he tried to speak. he was unbound and he reached back to touch where his left wing had been, there was only a stump left.
"Lucian, you are hereby renounced of your warrior status. Get him out of my sight." Lucian was escorted outside, where the guardians left him stranded in the street. He blacked out and felt himself being picked up and carried somewhere else.
************
"he's heavy" thought the angel. He carried the limp body off the streets and through alleys, to an abandoned complex not far away. "Melinda!" he called. A slender young angeless came from the shadows.
"Who on heaven is this, Ven?!"
Ven looked around and said, "not here... Let's get inside."
he carried the angel inside and set him down on the dimly lit bed. He was still out cold. Ven sighed and said, "Remember that trip I took to the holy city?"
"Yes of course."
"Things happened there... the Network had me do some things..."
she narrowed her eyes. "What type of things?"
"i-i had to steal some artifacts...and some officials got killed."
"WHAT?!?!"
"i didn't get caught! But... i-i panicked, i blamed it on... On him..."
melinda was speechless," i-i cant..."
"melinda... Please..."
"no, i cant deal with this anymore, i'm leaving."
"wait!"
"no, ven. Figure this out on your own." and she disappeared.
Ven sighed and looked over at the one-winged angel.
"i'm sorry"
the angel stirred slightly but didnt wake. Ven looked at the stump where the angel's wing should have been, and the scars that lined his body.
"i need to take him to the Network... Maybe, maybe then i can finish what i started... And give this angel what i stole from him... I have to take him to the Holy One..."
he closed his eyes for a moment, then,"i promise, you will get your wing back." and he fell asleep.
**********
Lucian woke up as parts of his body burned fiercly. He cried out and writhed in pain. Soon the burning became a simmer, but it still hurt. lucians heart was beating rapidly and he was exhausted. He replayed last night's adventure. He glanced over his shoulder and as expected, he didnt see his wing. he could feel the blood caked on his back and he felt weak when he tried to get up. He fell and caught himself on the table. "wait a moment... Where am i?!" he frantically looked at his surroundings. He saw another angel asleep in a chair and a doorway behind him. The door looked weak but lucian wasnt sure he could do anything in his weakened state. "i have to try..." he ran, or rather stumbled toward the door and managed to break it down. He fell down outside and was temporarily blinded by the sunlight. He managed his way into the street, where the angels looked on in confusion. "i'm... this
is my street..." he hobbled over to his house and stepped inside. nothing had been touched since last night. "i'm not going to be able to find work... I'm not going to be able buy food.. agh! What am i going to do!" he sat on the bed, his head in his hands. he looked over to the wall, where he had his warrior blade hanging just in case. He grabbed his bag and packed some clothes. He changed into his finer dress clothes that he used on formal occasions. He grabbed his bag and put the sword on his belt. "i wish it didnt have to come to this..." he pushed on a spot on the wall and it slid away. Inside the compartment were his warrior armor and weapons. He took off the suit jacket and grabbed his vest. he put various weapons in their spots and shut the wall. He put the suit-jacket back on and buttoned it to conceal the vest. He felt energized and ready for anything. That was until he turned and saw the angel from the complex.
"where do you think You're going?"
"who are you?"
the angel looked amused and said, "you can call me Ven."
"well, Ven, i'm going to find the one who set me up, and i'm going to do what he did to me."
ven looked frightened. "why dont you come with me."
lucian didnt trust this ven. "i'm not going with anyone." and he dove through the window. He sprinted down the street, the bag and his sword held firmly in his hands. "i need money, i need food... I need to find him."
***********
after all these years of loyal service, after all he'd done, he'd been thrown out without trial, revoked his warrior status, and now Lucian was going to find whoever had done this to him, and he was going to make him pay. he was a fallen angel, and he had nothing to lose.
lucian was perched on the top of the church spire, contemplating where to start his search. *the evidence.. what evidence...?

"i'll start with the judges chambers..."
lucian looked to the north, where the monolith towered over the city. he jumped from roof to roof as he neared the building. i'll do whatever i have to... anything to clear my name. different parts of his body started to burn, and the others began to cool off.
the mark... its burning, it's going to keep burning...
he cried out and fell from the roof he was on. he hit the alley hard enough to break bone, but he happened to land on his wing, cushioning his fall, only a little bit though.
this mark is going to **** me someday... he checked his wing and brushed off the dirt. he folded the wing flat against his back and sat up. he got back on his feet and continued to the monolith.
will i have to live with this mark forever?
*************
(one day later)
"GET BACK HERE!!! STOP THAT MAN!!!" lucian was on the run. he found exactly what he was looking for, now he needed to find more information concerning the artifacts and the theif. but first he had to get away. he was turning corners and sprinting like a madman, but he couldnt escape the Detainers. then he heard a voice, "One Wing! over here!"
lucian looked towards where he heard the voice and saw an Angeless beckoning for him to come. "follow me!"
lucian reluctantly followed, winding through abandoned buildings and finally ducking behind an old counter. after a few minutes of silence, the woman said, "okay, we're clear. i'm Elora."
"lucian."
"oh... you're THE One-wing-angel..."
lucian looked down at the ground. "yeah... that's me."
"you were an elite, a warrior angel, weren't you?"
"yeah, but then i was set up and now i'm an outcast..."
"you were set up?"
"yeah, i was. i had everything i ever wanted, why would i need to commit those crimes? i was loyal, and trusted by everyone. and i swear that i will find whoever set me up..."
"and then what?" elora seemed to be waiting for something.
"i'm going to do to him what he did to me."
"what did he-" elora was cut off by lucian as he cried out. "what's wrong?!"
"the mark.... of eternal torture..."
"oh my gosh... i didnt know..."
"its nothing... i'm used to it..."
he took off his suit jacket and elora gasped when she saw his scars. she didn't seem to notice the vest of weapons or the sword at his side. "this is..."
"...the Mark..."
she grimaced as she saw them and said, "i'm sorry..."
"but why?"
"because, i was going to turn you in..."
lucian was on his feet immediately. "what?!"
"wait!! i'm not going to... not after seeing what they did to you..."
"how can i be sure i can trust you?!"
elora looked down at her feet and said, "you cant... but i can get you out of the city..."
"you can?"
************
Lucian was still finding it hard to trust Elora, but he stuck with her anyway. She took him away from the city and was about to turn back. Something inside Lucian wanted her to stay. "Wait! Don't leave. Come with me to the holy city."
She seemed hesitant but willing, "i-ive never been to the holy city...."
"It's an amazing place, quite a sight to see."
She took a moment to think and nodded, "I'll go with you."
Lucian smiled and walked forward. After long hours of relentless walking, Elora asked," how far do we have to travel?"
"A few more hours of walking..."
Elora sighed and said, "Alright..."
Lucian glanced over at her and saw that she was tired. "We should rest."
Elora and Lucian got off of the path ad took shelter beneath some gild-trees. "Elora, go ahead and rest up."
she reluctantly slept, but she was glad to, they had been traveling all day.
Lucian sharpened his blades and meditated while she slept.
Lucian prayed, like he had always done every morning. He had vowed not to let his becoming an outcast interfere with his routine. After he was finished, he sighed and glanced over at Elora; she was fast asleep. He then glanced at the sky and saw dark clouds quickly closing in. Lucian didn't want to wake Elora but he wanted to get her out of the rain. He set his suit jacket and weapons vest next to her and he extended his wing over her just as the rain began to fall. he was pleased to see that the rain would not touch the sleeping angel. On the other hand, Lucian was vulnerable, but he didn't mind. He would rather shelter Elora than himself. Lucian ignored the rain and decided to doze for a while.
***********
Elora woke up as a cold wind blew. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and saw the millions of raindrops in front of her. it took her a moment to realize that she was dry. she glanced over and saw that Lucian was soaking wet and had his wing extended over her. "You should have woken me, Lucian." she extended one of her wings over him as he shivered.
"th-thanks, e-elora." she could tell he was freezing because even the feather's  above her were shivering. she decided to do something to repay his kindness.
"come closer, we can share body heat." suddenly the feathers stopped shivering, they became rigid, as if lucian was surprised... apparently he was.
"really?"
"yeah, its the least i can do." she sat closer to him and put an arm around him. his skin was cool to the touch and his muscles were tense, but they soon relaxed, as did the feathers above her. he soon stopped shivering and the rain stopped falling.
May
Come queen of months in company
Wi all thy merry minstrelsy
The restless cuckoo absent long
And twittering swallows chimney song
And hedge row crickets notes that run
From every bank that fronts the sun
And swathy bees about the grass
That stops wi every bloom they pass
And every minute every hour
Keep teazing weeds that wear a flower
And toil and childhoods humming joys
For there is music in the noise
The village childern mad for sport
In school times leisure ever short
That crick and catch the bouncing ball
And run along the church yard wall
Capt wi rude figured slabs whose claims
In times bad memory hath no names
Oft racing round the nookey church
Or calling ecchos in the porch
And jilting oer the weather ****
Viewing wi jealous eyes the clock
Oft leaping grave stones leaning hights
Uncheckt wi mellancholy sights
The green grass swelld in many a heap
Where kin and friends and parents sleep
Unthinking in their jovial cry
That time shall come when they shall lye
As lowly and as still as they
While other boys above them play
Heedless as they do now to know
The unconcious dust that lies below
The shepherd goes wi happy stride
Wi moms long shadow by his side
Down the dryd lanes neath blooming may
That once was over shoes in clay
While martins twitter neath his eves
Which he at early morning leaves
The driving boy beside his team
Will oer the may month beauty dream
And **** his hat and turn his eye
On flower and tree and deepning skye
And oft bursts loud in fits of song
And whistles as he reels along
Cracking his whip in starts of joy
A happy ***** driving boy
The youth who leaves his corner stool
Betimes for neighbouring village school
While as a mark to urge him right
The church spires all the way in sight
Wi cheerings from his parents given
Starts neath the joyous smiles of heaven
And sawns wi many an idle stand
Wi bookbag swinging in his hand
And gazes as he passes bye
On every thing that meets his eye
Young lambs seem tempting him to play
Dancing and bleating in his way
Wi trembling tails and pointed ears
They follow him and loose their fears
He smiles upon their sunny faces
And feign woud join their happy races
The birds that sing on bush and tree
Seem chirping for his company
And all in fancys idle whim
Seem keeping holiday but him
He lolls upon each resting stile
To see the fields so sweetly smile
To see the wheat grow green and long
And list the weeders toiling song
Or short note of the changing thrush
Above him in the white thorn bush
That oer the leaning stile bends low
Loaded wi mockery of snow
Mozzld wi many a lushing thread
Of crab tree blossoms delicate red
He often bends wi many a wish
Oer the brig rail to view the fish
Go sturting by in sunny gleams
And chucks in the eye dazzld streams
Crumbs from his pocket oft to watch
The swarming struttle come to catch
Them where they to the bottom sile
Sighing in fancys joy the while
Hes cautiond not to stand so nigh
By rosey milkmaid tripping bye
Where he admires wi fond delight
And longs to be there mute till night
He often ventures thro the day
At truant now and then to play
Rambling about the field and plain
Seeking larks nests in the grain
And picking flowers and boughs of may
To hurd awhile and throw away
Lurking neath bushes from the sight
Of tell tale eyes till schools noon night
Listing each hour for church clocks hum
To know the hour to wander home
That parents may not think him long
Nor dream of his rude doing wrong
Dreading thro the night wi dreaming pain
To meet his masters wand again
Each hedge is loaded thick wi green
And where the hedger late hath been
Tender shoots begin to grow
From the mossy stumps below
While sheep and cow that teaze the grain
will nip them to the root again
They lay their bill and mittens bye
And on to other labours hie
While wood men still on spring intrudes
And thins the shadow solitudes
Wi sharpend axes felling down
The oak trees budding into brown
Where as they crash upon the ground
A crowd of labourers gather round
And mix among the shadows dark
To rip the crackling staining bark
From off the tree and lay when done
The rolls in lares to meet the sun
Depriving yearly where they come
The green wood pecker of its home
That early in the spring began
Far from the sight of troubling man
And bord their round holes in each tree
In fancys sweet security
Till startld wi the woodmans noise
It wakes from all its dreaming joys
The blue bells too that thickly bloom
Where man was never feared to come
And smell smocks that from view retires
**** rustling leaves and bowing briars
And stooping lilys of the valley
That comes wi shades and dews to dally
White beady drops on slender threads
Wi broad hood leaves above their heads
Like white robd maids in summer hours
Neath umberellas shunning showers
These neath the barkmens crushing treads
Oft perish in their blooming beds
Thus stript of boughs and bark in white
Their trunks shine in the mellow light
Beneath the green surviving trees
That wave above them in the breeze
And waking whispers slowly bends
As if they mournd their fallen friends
Each morning now the weeders meet
To cut the thistle from the wheat
And ruin in the sunny hours
Full many wild weeds of their flowers
Corn poppys that in crimson dwell
Calld ‘head achs’ from their sickly smell
And carlock yellow as the sun
That oer the may fields thickly run
And ‘iron ****’ content to share
The meanest spot that spring can spare
Een roads where danger hourly comes
Is not wi out its purple blooms
And leaves wi points like thistles round
Thickset that have no strength to wound
That shrink to childhoods eager hold
Like hair—and with its eye of gold
And scarlet starry points of flowers
Pimpernel dreading nights and showers
Oft calld ‘the shepherds weather glass’
That sleep till suns have dyd the grass
Then wakes and spreads its creeping bloom
Till clouds or threatning shadows come
Then close it shuts to sleep again
Which weeders see and talk of rain
And boys that mark them shut so soon
will call them ‘John go bed at noon
And fumitory too a name
That superstition holds to fame
Whose red and purple mottled flowers
Are cropt by maids in weeding hours
To boil in water milk and way1
For washes on an holiday
To make their beauty fair and sleak
And scour the tan from summers cheek
And simple small forget me not
Eyd wi a pinshead yellow spot
I’th’ middle of its tender blue
That gains from poets notice due
These flowers the toil by crowds destroys
And robs them of their lowly joys
That met the may wi hopes as sweet
As those her suns in gardens meet
And oft the dame will feel inclind
As childhoods memory comes to mind
To turn her hook away and spare
The blooms it lovd to gather there
My wild field catalogue of flowers
Grows in my ryhmes as thick as showers
Tedious and long as they may be
To some, they never weary me
The wood and mead and field of grain
I coud hunt oer and oer again
And talk to every blossom wild
Fond as a parent to a child
And cull them in my childish joy
By swarms and swarms and never cloy
When their lank shades oer morning pearls
Shrink from their lengths to little girls
And like the clock hand pointing one
Is turnd and tells the morning gone
They leave their toils for dinners hour
Beneath some hedges bramble bower
And season sweet their savory meals
Wi joke and tale and merry peals
Of ancient tunes from happy tongues
While linnets join their fitful songs
Perchd oer their heads in frolic play
Among the tufts of motling may
The young girls whisper things of love
And from the old dames hearing move
Oft making ‘love knotts’ in the shade
Of blue green oat or wheaten blade
And trying simple charms and spells
That rural superstition tells
They pull the little blossom threads
From out the knapweeds button heads
And put the husk wi many a smile
In their white bosoms for awhile
Who if they guess aright the swain
That loves sweet fancys trys to gain
Tis said that ere its lain an hour
Twill blossom wi a second flower
And from her white ******* hankerchief
Bloom as they ne’er had lost a leaf
When signs appear that token wet
As they are neath the bushes met
The girls are glad wi hopes of play
And harping of the holiday
A hugh blue bird will often swim
Along the wheat when skys grow dim
Wi clouds—slow as the gales of spring
In motion wi dark shadowd wing
Beneath the coming storm it sails
And lonly chirps the wheat hid quails
That came to live wi spring again
And start when summer browns the grain
They start the young girls joys afloat
Wi ‘wet my foot’ its yearly note
So fancy doth the sound explain
And proves it oft a sign of rain
About the moor ‘**** sheep and cow
The boy or old man wanders now
Hunting all day wi hopful pace
Each thick sown rushy thistly place
For plover eggs while oer them flye
The fearful birds wi teazing cry
Trying to lead their steps astray
And coying him another way
And be the weather chill or warm
Wi brown hats truckd beneath his arm
Holding each prize their search has won
They plod bare headed to the sun
Now dames oft bustle from their wheels
Wi childern scampering at their heels
To watch the bees that hang and swive
In clumps about each thronging hive
And flit and thicken in the light
While the old dame enjoys the sight
And raps the while their warming pans
A spell that superstition plans
To coax them in the garden bounds
As if they lovd the tinkling sounds
And oft one hears the dinning noise
Which dames believe each swarm decoys
Around each village day by day
Mingling in the warmth of may
Sweet scented herbs her skill contrives
To rub the bramble platted hives
Fennels thread leaves and crimpld balm
To scent the new house of the swarm
The thresher dull as winter days
And lost to all that spring displays
Still mid his barn dust forcd to stand
Swings his frail round wi weary hand
While oer his head shades thickly creep
And hides the blinking owl asleep
And bats in cobweb corners bred
Sharing till night their murky bed
The sunshine trickles on the floor
Thro every crevice of the door
And makes his barn where shadows dwell
As irksome as a prisoners cell
And as he seeks his daily meal
As schoolboys from their tasks will steal
ile often stands in fond delay
To see the daisy in his way
And wild weeds flowering on the wall
That will his childish sports recall
Of all the joys that came wi spring
The twirling top the marble ring
The gingling halfpence hussld up
At pitch and toss the eager stoop
To pick up heads, the smuggeld plays
Neath hovels upon sabbath days
When parson he is safe from view
And clerk sings amen in his pew
The sitting down when school was oer
Upon the threshold by his door
Picking from mallows sport to please
Each crumpld seed he calld a cheese
And hunting from the stackyard sod
The stinking hen banes belted pod
By youths vain fancys sweetly fed
Christning them his loaves of bread
He sees while rocking down the street
Wi weary hands and crimpling feet
Young childern at the self same games
And hears the self same simple names
Still floating on each happy tongue
Touchd wi the simple scene so strong
Tears almost start and many a sigh
Regrets the happiness gone bye
And in sweet natures holiday
His heart is sad while all is gay
How lovly now are lanes and balks
For toils and lovers sunday walks
The daisey and the buttercup
For which the laughing childern stoop
A hundred times throughout the day
In their rude ramping summer play
So thickly now the pasture crowds
In gold and silver sheeted clouds
As if the drops in april showers
Had woo’d the sun and swoond to flowers
The brook resumes its summer dresses
Purling neath grass and water cresses
And mint and flag leaf swording high
Their blooms to the unheeding eye
And taper bowbent hanging rushes
And horse tail childerns bottle brushes
And summer tracks about its brink
Is fresh again where cattle drink
And on its sunny bank the swain
Stretches his idle length again
Soon as the sun forgets the day
The moon looks down on the lovly may
And the little star his friend and guide
Travelling together side by side
And the seven stars and charleses wain
Hangs smiling oer green woods agen
The heaven rekindles all alive
Wi light the may bees round the hive
Swarm not so thick in mornings eye
As stars do in the evening skye
All all are nestling in their joys
The flowers and birds and pasture boys
The firetail, long a stranger, comes
To his last summer haunts and homes
To hollow tree and crevisd wall
And in the grass the rails odd call
That featherd spirit stops the swain
To listen to his note again
And school boy still in vain retraces
The secrets of his hiding places
In the black thorns crowded copse
Thro its varied turns and stops
The nightingale its ditty weaves
Hid in a multitude of leaves
The boy stops short to hear the strain
And ’sweet jug jug’ he mocks again
The yellow hammer builds its nest
By banks where sun beams earliest rest
That drys the dews from off the grass
Shading it from all that pass
Save the rude boy wi ferret gaze
That hunts thro evry secret maze
He finds its pencild eggs agen
All streakd wi lines as if a pen
By natures freakish hand was took
To scrawl them over like a book
And from these many mozzling marks
The school boy names them ‘writing larks’
*** barrels twit on bush and tree
Scarse bigger then a bumble bee
And in a white thorns leafy rest
It builds its curious pudding-nest
Wi hole beside as if a mouse
Had built the little barrel house
Toiling full many a lining feather
And bits of grey tree moss together
Amid the noisey rooky park
Beneath the firdales branches dark
The little golden crested wren
Hangs up his glowing nest agen
And sticks it to the furry leaves
As martins theirs beneath the eaves
The old hens leave the roost betimes
And oer the garden pailing climbs
To scrat the gardens fresh turnd soil
And if unwatchd his crops to spoil
Oft cackling from the prison yard
To peck about the houseclose sward
Catching at butterflys and things
Ere they have time to try their wings
The cattle feels the breath of may
And kick and toss their heads in play
The *** beneath his bags of sand
Oft jerks the string from leaders hand
And on the road will eager stoop
To pick the sprouting thistle up
Oft answering on his weary way
Some distant neighbours sobbing bray
Dining the ears of driving boy
As if he felt a fit of joy
Wi in its pinfold circle left
Of all its company bereft
Starvd stock no longer noising round
Lone in the nooks of foddering ground
Each skeleton of lingering stack
By winters tempests beaten black
Nodds upon props or bolt upright
Stands swarthy in the summer light
And oer the green grass seems to lower
Like stump of old time wasted tower
All that in winter lookd for hay
Spread from their batterd haunts away
To pick the grass or lye at lare
Beneath the mild hedge shadows there
Sweet month that gives a welcome call
To toil and nature and to all
Yet one day mid thy many joys
Is dead to all its sport and noise
Old may day where’s thy glorys gone
All fled and left thee every one
Thou comst to thy old haunts and homes
Unnoticd as a stranger comes
No flowers are pluckt to hail the now
Nor cotter seeks a single bough
The maids no more on thy sweet morn
Awake their thresholds to adorn
Wi dewey flowers—May locks new come
And princifeathers cluttering bloom
And blue bells from the woodland moss
And cowslip cucking ***** to toss
Above the garlands swinging hight
Hang in the soft eves sober light
These maid and child did yearly pull
By many a folded apron full
But all is past the merry song
Of maidens hurrying along
To crown at eve the earliest cow
Is gone and dead and silent now
The laugh raisd at the mocking thorn
Tyd to the cows tail last that morn
The kerchief at arms length displayd
Held up by pairs of swain and maid
While others bolted underneath
Bawling loud wi panting breath
‘Duck under water’ as they ran
Alls ended as they ne’er began
While the new thing that took thy place
Wears faded smiles upon its face
And where enclosure has its birth
It spreads a mildew oer her mirth
The herd no longer one by one
Goes plodding on her morning way
And garlands lost and sports nigh gone
Leaves her like thee a common day
Yet summer smiles upon thee still
Wi natures sweet unalterd will
And at thy births unworshipd hours
Fills her green lap wi swarms of flowers
To crown thee still as thou hast been
Of spring and summer months the queen
Mateuš Conrad Feb 2020
.i have come to realiße that... it's not so much what you write about... but the mere fact of writing... i can't imagine myself being subjected to something, like a narrative, or furthering a character study... i can be the object of whatever is whimsical enough to come into my head of its own accord - i want to forget forcing something to come into this puncture, this dam, this incision that i am coordinating... and it's not that i'm objecting to something, but i am not going to subject myself to - no more than a whim, of its own desires... with no attached: i think so too... it's not about what i write anymore: it's the fact that i write... if i'll be able to spew 3 thousand words tonight... i'll be content... because... i know that i have crossed the threshold of not being left "satisfied": nonetheless constipated by an instagram haiku... mind you... that's a very troubling hindsight note you have in there... wouldn't an object the size of the earth... in a vacuum of space... create its own winds to imitate movement? there is no wind on the moon... yes... and we're talking hindsight from 420BC... the moon landing happened in the 20th century... let's give it some times before that becomes an obvious hindsight too... do you feel movement - rotating - did the turkish dervishes help at all?

the fine line between: competition and corporation,
otherwise known as a: very, very, naive poo'em...

by a definition alone:
it's not so much concerning whether this
would ever become a capitalism vs.
a communism "debate"...

after all - i'm ref. walking a tight-rope...

of the latter, verbatim:
'an association of individuals,
created by law or under authority of law,
having a continuous existence independent
of the existences of its members
and powers and liabilities distinct from
those of its members'...

can i just point out, foremost,
in an environment of competition laws can be bent...
to add to: the spectacle...
the athletics doping scandals:
it's within a spirit of competition...
the sprinters are not corporating for give
a spectacle... they are competing...
for the the spectacle...
ask me again the difference between...
what used to be a competitive event
done during leisure hours...
and what was a leisure event akin
to reading...
and ask me again: the difference between
taking part in the event of competing...
and watching a competition -
and what had to be involved to give
the spectacle its architecture...
i don't think it was so much competition
as it was corporation... never mind for now...

after all... how many times have laws
been bent when watching a football match?
the passing of law is hardly an objective
crux that so many "rational" and logic-"riddled"
people stress - can be made by one man...
sure... laws in vivo - science and what not...
these objective safety-nets...
that can lead to endless to-and-fro...
but i hardly think... man is capable of passing
objective laws: in vitro... notably in -
           in unum: omni...
unless that's a schizophrenic metaphor...
which is already a metaphor when
tested on a bilingual brain...

how many people did it take...
to pass: the earth rotates around the sun?

the heliocentric model...
genesis in the west from philolaus,
heraclides ponticus,
pythagoras (hindsight...
wouldn't an object moving in
a vacuum of space... create winds of
its own?)
aristarchus of samos,
then onto philolaus of croton -
anaxagoras; whoever was
debunked by ptolemy... then so many years...
until enough time passed...
before people could take the plunge and
be certain: for old time's sake with
copernicus - well the people have been sleeping
for long enough...
enough time has passed and we can pass...
this objective truth... that the heliocentric
model is true and that the pharaohs held
no authority as the sons of the sun
in the static geocentric model...
likes Xerxes ordering the sea to the be whipped
to calm down... and become a lake...
some pharaoh must have had a wild
idea telling a sand dune to stop moving
or seeing some mt. sinai said: shrink!
so instead be said: let's build us a... perfect pyramid...
a mountain that looks... geometric from
both afar and near!

or at least that's what Homer would have
said when visiting Giza: Δ'uh!

so a single man is somehow justified
in passing an objective truth?
unless the mob encores...
but what about the jury - a trial without a jury
is any trial at all...
murky ground if you ask me...
i don't expect man to pass...
judgement for a universal equilibrium...
but what i do expect is that:
he doesn't think he's capable of this: grandiosity!
clearly he's not... the objective reality
of falling... the subjective: i'm right as
allocated the status judge: therefore i'm standing still.

competition in a medical environment...
only in the realm of psychiatry...
and the mine-field of misdiagnosed misfortunes...
but i hardly think... competition is a catalyst
for getting surgery done...
corporation, yes...
among farmers? a rare treat....
a hobby pursuit for a selected fraction of
the crop... the dear-to-my-heart "g.m." tomato...
but all the other tomatoes... need to be harvested...
but this my pet-tomato... which needs to be:
THIS BIG! another matter...

sport and competition...
but work... and competition?
no wonder work and competition,
rather than corporation gives end results as...
who's wearing the most trendy sneakers?
who's social media account requires...
the most editing? who's child is the one with
the smartphone? etc. etc.

the bait of the poo'em is that it's naive:
but i think it is - so there's that to begin with...

i still can't fathom that "capitalism" was solely
promulgated on competition -
i'm still having to address the "model" as...
having to retain a "socialist" aspect akin to corporation
to get away with... what later became:
an all out economic "war" of competition...

naive utopian of me to somehow huddle
at the fireplace of corporation...
work - if so many people hate their work...
what would be the only gratifying
alleviation? and i'm pretty sure some places of work
are less about competition: and more about
corporation - as i write this...
the british national health service...
some people will compete by cutting corners...
competition will lead to doping scandals...
competition is... an Elisium for the few
and... a crab-bucket for the some...
call them the 10% cliff-hangers...

i've noticed it in poetry... slam poetics...
what not... this affair is already riddled with too many
****-up ****-wit window-lickers:
of which i am primo...
but i don't think it necessary to compete...
this was never about competition...
not every work is required to be
tinged with competition...
sometimes... it's just better to corporate...
do... undertakers compete?
do... postmen compete?
last time i heard: each is allocated his volume
of letters... it doesn't matter whether
he finishes his chores before the other postmen...
no postman is stupid enough
to take up someone else's allocated letters...
the first finishes his chores sooner...
the latter works overtime without pay...
it's a corporation of endeavours...
all the same... but there is no need to give these
postmen running orders when
they can walk the ******* mile...

competition within the realm of sport is one
thing... i guess a long time ago...
some people engaged in competition: sports...
to escape the general lagging begin plateau
of corporation... Rome wasn't build in
a single day... others dedicated themselves to
slouch and sloth of expanding the cranium
by reading a book...

the naive is still the bait...
is conscripting in an army...
about competition... or following orders and hierarchy
and therefore: not solely about corporation?
hierarchy you ask...
well... wouldn't that be something borrowed from
plutocracy / nepotism?
competition in an army environment...
what if you're in the royal guard
competing at what... shooting more blanks
into the sky expecting to shoot down the moon
at a wrestling-match fake
of staging of a state funeral?!
the cannons sounded... and that's all these
ever did... they were shooting with
empty wallnut shells! the wallnuts were
eaten by gunpowder gremlins long ago...
before the pomp & circumstance was shot
with: aenemic *****...

this is not a capitalism vs. a communism
debate... communism was riddled with nepotism...
come to think of it...
capitalism is not there yet...
but it's already there...
from what i've heard...
capitalism as this utopia ideal is not a meritocracy:
exceptions are made...
cicero was an exception of the roman empire
under nero...
exceptions and genetic freaks...
is this still a naive poem?

i can understand where competition works -
notably in what jobs it might work...
but most jobs require a stable work ethic
of corporation...
perhaps all self-employed entrepreneurs...
"perhaps" have no corporation in mind...
to a greater degree of orientating themselves...
in that corporation is: outside the bracket...
if everyone was suddenly...
self-employed... there would be no fear of...
the robotic onslought to come...
at least then... the microcosm would open...
and there would no longer be any employees...
just self-employed facets of...
"corporations in name only"...
which they already are...
corporations in name only...
given that... the corporations are no longer
competing with each other...
they have consolidated on a monopoly...
and since they are no longer competing with each
other... they have designated their former...
inter-competition into a hierarchal intra-competition
of "employees"...

can a bus driver, or a tube train operator compete?
by law... you can only drive a bus for 8 hours...
to operate a tube train... you can do X number of hours...
and these include breaks... necessary breaks...
can you find competition in these:
ultra-corporative environments? no!
capitalism might think it is necessary to scare everyone
into: the robots are coming! time to be self-employed
and compete! compete!
but some jobs are still: primed to corporation!

could i ever see undertakers competing?
in times of a spiked demand - during a plague...
what is healthy in sport -
is not necessarily healthy in a workplace -
after all... most people detest earning money -
it's a chore - mind you: do i enjoy writing poo'etry?
am i being paid for writing it?
no... i am "volunteering"... for the love of
the art... for ****'s sake... nothing more!
nothing less!

is this still a naive poo'em: yes... sorry...
i forgot to be caustic and there's no rhyme... my bad...
but this is not a capitalism vs. communism
tirade... from the yoke of the soviet union...
i learned from my mother that...
flues weren't really that prominent...
not until the 1970s...
by then it was a common theme...
biological warfare... while the crown-virus has
yet to claim a life outside of the mandarin
genetics: in the age of propaganda journalism:
you hear a "truth" one day...
three days later you're singing along to your
own "biased" / solipstic narrative...
after a while you have to adopt the "autism"
of solipsism: the world can only bite so much
out of you... you have to turn to standards of delusion
to match to their: from the many, one...

in sport, competition is the "zeitgeist":
it's not a metaphor, it's a misnomer...
but given the " " ditto brackets - i'm tired of looking
for the: "required" word... sometimes...

by the 5th definition of competition...
it's not as direct as corporation, competition
needs to borrow from an -ology...
again, verbatim: 'rivalry between two or more
persons or groups for an object desired in common,
usually resulting in a victor and
a loser but not necessarily involving
the destruction of the latter' -

what is untrue about this is that...
the destruction of the latter is paramount...
at least these days...
am i to believe that capitalism was not,
not ever, tinged with a belief in corporation...
that it was always, somehow, only about
competition?
what was communism born from?
when did the abolishment of serfdom happen
in russia? 1861...
the abolishment of slavery happened
in england in 1865... 4 years after...
but... but!
in russia? the slaves were thought of as...
people from within russia...
in england? the slaves? en route a trade from
one foreign place to another...
wow!
all slavery: either foreign, or domestic...
and to think that communism was a "failure"...
hard to imagine... truly hard to imagine...
given that... communism was born...
4 years prior to slavery in general was abolished...
of foreign to become "nationals"...
what does english he-he-history tell us about
native slaves? four years prior to the slaves
moved from africa to the cotton candy fields...
there were slaves that were not: ***** out of africa...

reperations who's who?!
why didn't capitalism bloom in russia...
why will it never bloom - oligarchs and...
currency of modern western capitalism:
nepotism...
who is jared kushner?
mr. cushions mr. cushtie...
mr. minted in: network baron...
slavery was abolished on the international scale
in england in 1865... four years after...
internal slavery was abolished in russia... 1861...
isn't that the sort of wow you were expecting?!
so when was slavery-slavery abolished
in england?
again... if internal slavery was abolished in russia...
4 years after slavery on an international
stage was abolished...
communism was a failure because: per se...
or... was communism supposed to be...
a short-cut attempt to catch up to capitalism?
was it a failure in catching up to capitalism?
in the 2008 financial clash...
where was Poland? recession free...
again... communism was a failure per se...
but... was it a failure in terms of catching up
to capitalism?
to me... it's still catching up...
when again... we're talking... freeing people...
only 4 years prior to people who would
otherwise still be... rummaging the romances
of Kenya and seeing no albino tourists sipping
brandy on their shores...
perhaps better for the whole load of us...

i ask, again, in my naive way...
that's the difference between competition and corporation?
not much...
a football team needs to compete with other football teams,
but it needs a corporative methodology behind it...
you can sometimes spot a maverick who wants
to be the solipsist in the team and become
nothing more than the top goal-scorcer -
then again: a kevin de bruyne and the number of assists...

if there was to be a level playing field...
everyone was to be self-employed...
what fear from robots?
competition on a ford's:
each man is a cog in the assembly line...
you can't compete... were you supposed to?
i thought that the only reason sport
was fun was to be compete and corporate...
it wasn't solely about competing:
not even in tennis are you ever competing...
unless you're serving a ****-ace...
competing but also corporating:
for the spectacle: with 19shot rallies...

to reiterate: this is a really naive poo'em...
is has to be!
- again... before capitalism became this hell-scape
spiral of: fear of robotics / a.i.:
let's just see if we get enough self-employed
people on board...
oh sure: the self-employed undertaker...
the self-employed bus-driver...
i'm sure there was, what's not called:
a "healthy spirit of competition" in work related
niches of existence...

i'm an alcoholic living among workaholics...
not a pretty sight... believe me...

i'm sure that capitalism... must have began
with: a "healthy spirit of corporation"...
that one henry ford would benefit more than
all the assembly line workers: fine...
the brains is allowed the conscious efforts
to move the eyes, close them,
use the jaw... bite... do magic with the tongue...
the liver has no knowledge of alcohol...
the heart isn't exactly aware of either veins
or arteries... fine... a henry ford cigar can get
away with thinking he's not adding
a chimney to the whole affair...
or a rhine-valley load of chimneys...
the stomach doesn't know what taste is...
sure as **** the small intestine knows
what it feels like to be a woman:
should it find itself unfortunate to have
a hitchhiker tapeworm attached to it... etc. etc.

but i imagine the capitalism had a sense of
corporation before...
it worked too many psychopathic sport analogies
into itself... precursor to the fear
or a.i. robbing people of their jobs?
testing people in a self-employed job market...
again: oh sure... the self-employed undertaker...
the self-employed busdriver!
perhaps a self-employed cabbie...
a self-employed surgeon?
how would that work?

        what's that? the cult leader... would not find
a job status match... in a corporate market of ideas?
then a ******* maverick he is...
esp. with such dates as: the brian jonestown
massacre hovering over his head!

perhaps i am naive is reiterating:
work implies corporation rather than competition,
in that work implies chores...
i've seen this in my father -
he doesn't underand household chores
on the basis on corporation -
he understands them on the basis of competition...
and he's to somehow... take pleasure
in the "free bread and circus"...
when the circus is not what it used to be?
once upon a time: the circus involved
men... who were footballers...
but they also did part-time metallurgy work...
they would clock in at a certain hour...
then be let off work to play a football match...
they weren't paid: professional:
disappropriate wages...
because their "work"... was over-inflated
by the gambling syndicate dicta...

there was a utopia in Poland...
it lasted for... roughly 30 years... from 1945
through to 1975... after that the herrings
didn't want to be pickled...
the baltic sea started to boil and the fish
strarted to froth at the mouth...
it's not a nostalgia segment: i was born in 1986...
this is mythology: curating the temporal
standards of modern journalism...
history: what time ago?
50 years? elvis was abducted by aliens...
n'esst ce pas?!

slam poetry competition with fellow:
poo'em eaters...
can i jut take the armchair with Horace?
i don't feel like competing...
what am i competing for?
volume... a new YA novel?
i will not ***** language...
even if it is a language i acquired:
and it's not a tattoo native first come first served
expression...
this is not a capitalism vs. communism
affair...

all the: towel in champions of capitalism
have made it clear:
start a traditional family, start a farm...
milk some goats...
pluck some eggs... living the dream:
brown fingers and all...
                       way way out from competition
in the workplace...
so... no need to corporate...
solo does it...
                                and if i'll be needing some
milk... i'll likewise claim: an autistic
pension and enough barren land to feed
goats organic glue and toilet paper that
magically morph into... a propaganda poster...

olim truncus eram ficulnus, inutile lignum:
once i was a stump of fig,
a wood without use... this is my best Horace:
thank you, goodnight...

what is to be competed for?
rather: what it to be retained, kept, status quo
enclosed... this pride for corporation?
competition in the workplace can only go as far...
not all professions can allow competition...
some will forever retain their base:
corporation...
to compete outside the realm of sport...
sport... those with enough awareness
of the body would pursue it...
those with a bit more brain in tow...
wouldn't... the ghost limb terms:
there's nothing of note
when it comes to competing with i.q. in
mind... or corporating...
there's this ancient feat of "solipsism" and
self-bettering... rather than running
the "expected" mile...
was capitalism always this:
chicken-shack-shackled into... wishing to squeeze
out drinking water... from pig ****?

again... this is not as easy give-away
that it's a capitalism versus communism base scrutiny...
all the eastern european laid-deeds have made it into
their chandelier filled land-allotement sights of
better ****** that gynocentrism...
i don't mind...
      yes... because among the bulgarian strip-party
i'm the ottoman janissary turned
well spoken sheikh... when morocco is given...
a fictional name... and i'm the Ali
that rubs Muhammad's lamp and
averts the... most ****** schism...
oh sure... Islam would be a pure religion...
and they would be allowed to complain about
porky-pies...
but... you see... how long did it take
for a schism to emerge between the orthodox grees
and tha catholic italians?
how long did the islamic schism take
to grovel and dig trenches?
not that much...
after all... Shia... Persians... Ali Woke-oh-Haram...
and the ****'ite... the ***** muslims...
the Saudi bin-Ladens...
well... that schism... didn't take that long...
some whisper about a schism in the monotheism
of the hebrews...
ha ha! i write ha ha... but even i have to laugh
out loud... a monotheism an inbreeding
of something more than genes...
fix the idea... and continue!

by now even i know that christianity has reached
a status of polytheism...
it's the same jesus... sure sure...
via no other than the orthodox,
the catholic, the protestant (calvinist, lutheran)
standards... or the baptists... or the jay-***-***-V-and-G
standards...
next thing you know: the vegans are
the gnostic monks!
because it has to be a joke at this point...
if christianity is a monotheism...
i'm mother theresa and that albanian
that stole george w. bush' mickey mouse's watch
on a state visit...
so to complete the holy trinity...
i'll be... alastair campbell... always for the giggles...

an alcoholic among workaholics...
who always had the satan's postbox concerning
the niqab... the same ones who were to be always
quoted: the beast from the east...
jesus is coming! look busy!

i mean... no need to look busy...
when the high a tide is making a comeback...
would you believe it?
if you saw the words... united kingdom...
england, scotland, wales... ireland...
that this was not moldova?
this is a language these are letters so arranged...
by an island-dwelling folk?
if you're the first, driver...
shotgun! who are we smuggling in the passenger
seats behind us?

imagine my surprise at the rereading,
with the typo: a missing (s) in letter()
and a missing (d) in arrange(d)...
i call them... the lost key of solomon...
or my own personal, hybrid,
hard-on...
oh god kept me with a phallus...
while giving all the angels a proper chopper
of the ol' wood... **** to stump...
i'm the one that wasn't circumcised!

and all i now have to sing about... is...
a forest of pines! a forest of pines!
pines pines pines! yippy caye!
Burnt out stump left to die
In the forest I stand alone
If I had a voice I would cry
If I felt pain I would groan
Yet I am just a tree to you
You cut me down for your view
Terry Collett Dec 2014
Anne rubs
her leg stump
sometimes it's

very hot
and itches
other times

it throbs hard
with the pain
that's how it

is again
so she rubs
the leg stump

and looks at
other kids
on the lawn

of the home
for the sick
some playing

on the swings
or the slide
some sitting

at tables
playing games
on game boards

but she's stuck
sitting there
in a chair

with one leg
and one stump
itching bare

then a nun
who's nursing
says to her

cover up
your leg stump
and don't rub

or you will
make it sore
but Anne

being she
says up yours
lifts her skirt

and rubs her
stump some more.
A GIRL IN A NURSING HOME FOR SICK CHILDREN IN SUSSEX IN 1950S.
Joe Cole Sep 2014
I saw the old man circling the tree trunk
Weather beaten skin, bent gnarled hands
and piercing blue eyes

He seemed to study every knot and crack
in that ancient timber

Then without a word turned and picked up hammer and chisel

The wood chips then began to fly and like confetti on the ground lie soon in heaps some ankle high

Occasionally he would stand back and look but never once a rest he took

Mallet strokes both hard and soft some from under some aloft fell there with unerring skill always busy never still

Long into the night he worked now by the light of an oil lamp and so the tree stump 'neath his hand then became a work of art

At long last he stood and turned to me and said three words " that'll do lad"

I approached to see just what he'd done and there I saw the perfect rose every petal and leaf in place the slender stems in the breeze did sway

With no plan or picture he had made the start
And created the perfect work of art.


So what is creativity? Well that's your next challenge.

No love poems because they've been done a million times. This time something unique
I decided to repost this after reading it, was going to change a few things but decided that its fine as it is
Chris Voss Feb 2013
I'm leaving.
Less like, Peace the **** out,
more like, I gotta go.
I'm leaving the way ships are wooed by waves,
under the pretense of more promising continents.

I can see where countless hands have pulled at my shoelaces,
wrapped my arches in ribbons of origami,
left me second guessing how well holes burn through soles.
It's been a long day of finding breathing space between double-knots and bending
broken fingernails back into place;
the self-constrained chaotic embrace of something supposedly so
straight as string brings forth beckoning ghosts of
those figure-eight souls who laid themselves
horizontal
to waste their Sundays tracing the Hills
on the breath fogged side of some painted-shut window sill;
trading the promise of Infinity
for the Religion of Monotony.
Praying through agoraphobic day-dreams
raining across the night sky of their eye lids
with the brilliance of meteorites,
imagining how earth-shattering they could be
if only these tyrannosauruses would just look up.

I have come here;
Less like, conquest
more like, exploration.
--Abandoned the comfort of quaint, suburban
ruins of the American Dream, which buckled
like widows knees mid frail-voiced eulogy
mourning the death of their Salesman--
and wandered aimlessly into the improvisation of some story-book jungle,
wishing I was better rehearsed.

I have come here
to congregate with the snakes and beasts; to feast beneath
the din of carnal sin and primal instincts. I've chosen to begin jumping
from stump-to-stump like stepping headstones
in a graveyard of fallen trees, where men,
                     who grew up too quickly and forgot the importance of pretend,
                     who learned early on how to black-market trade
                              the need to imagine for something a little bit more
                                                      tangib­le,­
                     who, smiling through serrated teeth,
saw it fit to clear this wilderness for something a little bit more
domesticated.

But thank god, these brambles grow so thick!
For every hail Mary their metal tongues would lick
into the trees' skin, a hallelujah of vines and branches and roots
would erupt in confused medley,
and their finest mathematics couldn't begin to calculate
the thriving division of a place so ungoverned by logic.       
In a jungle plucked straight from storybook pages
I'll band together with these untamed brutes
--these feral barbarians and unbroken monstrosities--
to howl at the moon with the effervescence of a Ginsberg poem.
We'll forge a tinsel-town crown and take turns
playing king of Where the Wild Things Are found.

See, unlike concrete cities
The Wild of Atavism has never forgotten that
Tradition is a catalyst for change
and that nothing is permanent.
Hell, I've been having laughing contests with a mountain
because every now-and-again he will crack
A smile, and when a mountain laughs
He does so, so gutturally,
From deep within his catacomb chest that
the whole Earth quakes -- everything shifts--
And I'm not gonna lie to you right now,
I've sort of got my heart set on being a part of something so
significant.

So if you follow,
shipwrecked and mapless,
Keep your shoelaces strapped tight
and run off the infinity of double knots.
If you go looking for me, continue
past the paint chips, through
the open window;
Set your sights to the far treelines.
And don't strain yourself listening for
the laughter of mountains,
Because when that stoic disposition
Finally does crack, you'll feel it in your feet
no matter where you are.
And from the way his ridges are crumbling,
I think I've almost got him beat.
Feb 27, 2013

© Christopher Voss
Terry Collett May 2015
Anne crutches herself onto the green lawn of the nursing home and sits at one of the metal white painted tables and in one of the white metal chairs and drops her crutches beside her Benedict whom she called Skinny Kid follows her and sits at the same table looking at her his hazel eyes focusing on her on her black straight hair and dark eyes other children are playing on the swings and slide or sitting at other tables a distance away don't want none of those other sick kids here Kid Anne says they're sneaks and tell tales and moaning Minnies and such but you Kid you're all right you’re possibly the only one here I can tolerate and O those pesky nuns ****** penguins walking about poking their noses into things saying have you had a motion today? have you passed water? yes I said to Sister Agnes I did a dance on one leg as a motion and I passed the running water tap on my way to breakfast what did she say​?Benedict asks she said manners Anne we must have manners and asked me again and I said both and plenty of them and she went off in a huff her black habit gown flapping behind her like some ****** bat one of the kids comes to the table and says can I sit here? of course you can sit you've an **** on you but no you may not Anne says shooing the girl away like she was a dog the girl went off looking back pulling a face how's your leg? Benedict asks missing and aching and driving me to distraction Anne says the ****** stump throbs and gets hot and it makes me a miserable sod can I see it Benedict asks what its like? you're a one aren't you always after seeing my stump later maybe not here with the nosey penguins gawking at everything we do a nun walks down to the table her eyes like black dots behind her wire spectacles ah Anne have you been upsetting the other children again? are you asking me or telling me? Anne says rubbing her leg eyeing Benedict Lina says you swore at her and told her to sit elsewhere the nun stares at Anne then at Benedict well? what happened the nun asks I never swear Sister I never swear I just said she could sit elsewhere be better for her I may have an illness she may catch and may bring her out in yellow spots the nun doesn't smile or move a muscle in her face her dark eyes move over Anne then Benedict well Benedict were you here? what happened and I want the truth or you'll not go to Heaven if you lie the nun says eyeing the boy scarily she didn't swear the boy says just said to go elsewhere the nun stares at Anne do not be horrible to other children they've as much right to sit here as you do now behave or I’ll report you to Sister Paul and then you'll know it the nun says and walks off like a rook unable to fly Anne farts and smiles sums her up that she says Benedict nods and looks at the table want to go to the beach? I can push you in the wheelchair? how old are you Kid? she asks ten nearly eleven he says she muses looks at him do you know how old I am? she asks eyeing him his quiff of hair the hazel eyes the skinny frame no idea Benedict says I’m twelve Kid although my mother says I’m big for my age got ******* and such Benedict looks past her head at the avenue of tree behind and the path to the beach got ***** hair too she adds to see if he'll blush what's that? he asks what’s what? Anne says ***** hair? he says that'd be telling wouldn't it spoil the surprise although you could always ask the good sisters and say dear Sister Paul what's this ***** hair stuff? she laughs to herself well Kid go get the wheel chair and off we go to the beach the boy smiles and gets up and walks quickly towards the nursing home Anne watches him go she winces and rubs her stump with her hands backwards and forwards she watches the other kids at play at the nuns walking here and there then Benedict comes across the grass pushing the wheelchair at a fair speed she smiles as he comes up to the table here we are one wheelchair he says slightly out of breath right bring it round here Kid and so he pushes the wheelchair next to her and manages to get herself in comfortably and rocks about until she's settled right then Kid did anyone stop you? yes he says Sister Agnes asked me where I was going with the wheelchair and I said you had need of it and she pulled a face then walked off with a face like a pinched behind Benedict says good on you Kid now let's' to the beach and away from the peasants and sickly she says so Benedict gets behind the wheelchair and pushes away from the table his arms outstretched his hands gripping the handles and off they go over the grass and onto the pebbly path between the trees and the sound of birdsong and the smell of the sea filling their noses and out the back gate and onto the path along by the sea the sounds of sea rush and waves and gull cries and people calling out and laughter and kids calling and crying and she says O this it Kid this is ******* living breathe in that air breathe in deep and Benedict breathes in deeply as he pushes her along the path smooth and easier and his thin legs pushing along the pathway and as he pushes he gazes down at her black haired head then at the red dress with the one leg sticking out the stump not visible but only the outline of it being there and the smell of the sea and salt in the air.
A ONE LEGGED GIRL AND A BOY IN A NURSING HOME IN 1959
Shane Roller Dec 2020
I love that stump over there

I liked the tree...
     But I love that stump

So solid and immovable!
    
Well, unless I pull it

But I won't pull it

I love that stump.

— The End —