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

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

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

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

2002

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

2003

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

2004

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

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

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

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

2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

2006

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

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

2007

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

2008

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

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

2009

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

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

2010

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

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

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

2011

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

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

2012

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

2013

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

2014

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

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

2015

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

2016

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

2017

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

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

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

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

2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a really hard time, this difficult spell could have been a tool to better our relationship. I wanted to experience more beautiful memories with her. We had so many more beautiful memories and dreams left to create. This is what marriage looks like to me now as I lower the casket.
This is a timeline of the major events during my 13 year marriage. Amidst the reality, I injected all the lovely memories that refuse to leave my mind.
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.
Lawrence Hall Feb 2019
The cultural filters are all in place
And truth, some say, is past its sell-by date
Weak hymns embalmed by hippies, and lost in space
Where time is always 1968

A poison-green tattoo on a fleshy back
No incense, but the Purell’s pretty strong
A ten-year-old gobbles his comfort snack
During Communion and a three-chord song

Our bishops quack and honk in flocks and herds -
We need a starets
                                           but all we get are words:


Intensify the Dallas Charter accountability focus accountability exclusively accountability collegial collective accountability responsibility address theme encounter dialectic collegiality variety universality unity flock dealing topic difficult reasons unexplored differences crisis difficult for bishops enable abusers gravely irreparably failures governance responsibility question engage conversation point brother problematic behavior cultivate culture correctio fraterna enables offending other recognize criticism opportunity to tasks related willingness personally mistakes to each other feeling maintain fraternal relationship cases we damaging weakness anecdotal parenthesis to his speech encounters course ministry recollection forgive counseling for healing discussing matter rationally headway realized psyche of the person measure semblance justice inability forgive his  apparently perplexing consternating remarked noting changed personality of person realize humility mistakes learn mistakes better question unanswered unaddressed mistakes allowed consequences mishandling cases gathering conferences participants and journalists effective concrete measures combat scourge scandal technical theological sense term list reflection points adjunct secretary special portfolio combatting meeting chief architects roadmap for our discussion very, very concrete understatement seriously utter understatement things discussed follow-up meeting continued model of reform the so-called intensify the Dallas Charter metropolitan model metropolitan investigating disciplining wayward ecclesiastical provinces briefing responded you have to read the footnote disgrace investigations systemic coverup dismissed briefing expressed hope report position power prominence leadership structure report findings influence broader jurisdictions Accountability focus accountability exclusively accountability collegial collective accountability responsibility address theme encounter dialectic collegiality variety universality unity flock dealing topic difficult reasons unexplored differences crisis difficult for bishops enable abusers gravely irreparably failures governance responsibility question engage conversation point brother problematic behavior cultivate culture correctio fraterna enables offending other recognize criticism opportunity to tasks related willingness personally mistakes to each other feeling maintain fraternal relationship cases we damaging weakness anecdotal parenthesis to his speech encounters course ministry recollection forgive counseling for healing discussing matter rationally headway realized psyche of the person measure semblance justice inability forgive his  apparently perplexing consternating remarked noting changed personality of person realize humility mistakes learn mistakes better question unanswered unaddressed mistakes allowed consequences mishandling cases gathering conferences participants and journalists effective concrete measures combat scourge scandal technical theological sense term list reflection points adjunct secretary special portfolio combatting meeting chief architects roadmap for our discussion very, very concrete understatement seriously utter understatement things discussed follow-up meeting continued model of reform the so-called Metropolitan model metropolitan investigating disciplining wayward ecclesiastical provinces briefing responded you have to read the footnote disgrace investigations systemic coverup dismissed briefing expressed hope report position power prominence leadership structure report findings influence broader jurisdictions accountable faithful promises episodes  accountability supportive talking collegiality obligation misbehavior failures circumstances reputation representative discreet inquiries interview expression concern geographically confronted reported matter subject investigating disciplining malfeasance proposal wrongdoing explained carefully considered matter alternatives remarks paragraph  rehearsed alternatives footnote 6 of text speeches delivered sessions briefing spoke involvement laity lay involvement transparency transparent offending other recognize criticism opportunity to tasks related willingness personally mistakes to each other feeling maintain fraternal relationship cases we damaging weakness anecdotal parenthesis to his speech encounters course ministry recollection forgive counseling for healing discussing matter rationally headway realized psyche of the person measure semblance justice inability forgive his  apparently perplexing consternating remarked noting changed personality of person realize humility mistakes learn mistakes better question unanswered unaddressed mistakes allowed consequences mishandling cases gathering conferences participants and journalists effective concrete measures combat scourge scandal technical theological sense term list reflection points adjunct secretary special portfolio combatting meeting chief architects roadmap for our discussion very, very concrete understatement seriously utter understatement things discussed follow-up meeting continued model of reform the so-called Metropolitan model metropolitan investigating disciplining wayward ecclesiastical provinces briefing responded you have to read the footnote disgrace investigations systemic coverup dismissed briefing expressed hope report position power prominence leadership structure report findings influence broader jurisdictions accountable faithful promises episodes  accountability supportive talking collegiality obligation misbehavior failures circumstances reputation representative discreet inquiries interview expression concern geographically confronted reported matter subject investigating disciplining malfeasance proposal wrongdoing explained carefully considered matter alternatives remarks paragraph  rehearsed alternatives footnote 6 of text speeches delivered sessions briefing spoke involvement laity lay involvement transparency transparent intensify the Dallas Charter…
Your ‘umble scrivener’s site is:
Reactionarydrivel.blogspot.com.
It’s not at all reactionary, tho’ it might be drivel.

Lawrence Hall’s vanity publications are available on amazon.com as Kindle and on bits of dead tree:  The Road to Magdalena, Paleo-Hippies at Work and Play, Lady with a Dead Turtle, Don’t Forget Your Shoes and Grapes, Coffee and a Dead Alligator to Go, and Dispatches from the Colonial Office.
Jade Elon Oct 2013
I guess you could say I'm supportive of gay marriage
Because if a boy and a girl can get married
Then a boy and a boy can get married
And if a boy and a boy can get married
Then a girl and a girl can get married
And I say this because I don't care who they marry
As long as it isn't who I want to marry
And I guess you could say I'm supportive of smoking
Because I don't care if you destroy your lungs
As long as it isn't around me
I don't care if you decided to sit in a smoke filled haze for the rest of your life
Wondering when it all went wrong as long as you
Don't call me at three am saying you have no choices
And you've given up.
And I guess you could say I'm supportive of selling
your body, mind and soul
Because I don't care as long as I'm not written into the fine print
And you're not signing me up for something I don't want to partake in.
See I'm selfish, I'm supportive of a lot of things
As long as the rioters don't come to my door demanding changes
And the altercations and "long live prosperity".
I don't care if it counters my ingrained beliefs,
It's not the end of the world
Just anther person doing what they want to do
So I guess you could say I am a liberal,
But I'd say I'm just too busy to give a ****
About controlling people's lives and that instead
Of making people conform I'd rather
Be getting **** done to actually
Change The World
Shannon Callow Dec 2015
You are the water to my seed,
you push me to grow, blossom and succeed.
You are the hope whispering in my ear
when my despair is growing near.

You are a superhero in disguise and inspire me
to become a strong independent woman and be the best I can be,
I hope that when I'm older I'm even half as remarkable as you are -
you are the most supportive, caring, beautiful person I know by far.

You are so special to me and every day we spend together is so sublime,
and no amount of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or years with you will be enough time.
And out of all the grandparents in this universe so divine,
I'm so glad that you got to be mine.
winter sakuras Jul 2018
There is such a place, you know--
one that transcends time and space
and visions of what you're supposed to resemble,
and the limits placed by the digits
of your mortal age.

I can feel the presence of it
in my bones,
where the sky is never ending and liberated
and the sun and moon
can openly converse and love and exist,
without the rules of superiors
who like tragic love stories and twisted histories.

Whatever you decide to do, whatever you decide to feel,
there are no restraints
to keep you from the prospects of flying,
or dreaming,
or embracing things that you had to
let go of in another existence.

There is no fear, confusion, or awkwardness,
no doubts of not belonging,
of not deserving to exist in such a place
where your soul can be pure,
and being able to thrive
without having to try so hard
anymore.

You don't have to try anymore to
be a good person,
because you are one.
You don't have to struggle to hold on to yourself,
you don't have to feign ignorance
or enlightenment.

You can breathe and smile openly,
and every smile is so breathtakingly beautiful that
you glow and transcend above all heavens
and insecurities.

The ground is soft and supportive,
giving way to your feet, that no longer
feel so tired and heavy from having to labor to live,
or from constantly running away
from demons and voices
that tear at your conscience and soul.

No, you can now feel as light as air itself,
soft feet running on sunkissed clouds that
formed from tears of happiness.

When it rains,
you don't have to take cover
for it has already washed away all your sorrows and guilts,
guilts in the forms of hot, suppressed tears
in the failures of your lost ambitions
and stolen discoveries,
guilt from turning away, even when someone
asked you for help.

You can forever venture out here,
to unknown, misty, thriving islands and majestic palaces
far away,
you can do things you never got to do,
for you don't have to pretend
to be someone you aren't.

You don't have to live each day questioning
every single telltale of life.

You don't have to wonder anymore
about why the world can be
such a cruel place,
no matter how many rays of hope
reach into the darkness.

You don't have to wonder anymore,
because here
such misery does not exist,
and the ruins of a good soul
dance as a renewed, enlightened being again.

Above all,
you don't have to live someone else's life
because here, you find yourself
over and over
and over again.
07/09/18

The Green of this particular Nirvana is a component that allows you to love and live freely, with no restrictions or heaviness of people weighed down by the world, and themselves.

Here, you are liberated from the faults of others, and the faults of yourself in a time and place where you were ignorant and lost.

Here, there is no society to degrade you. You can exist solely in harmony with nature.

Edit: Wow, I can't believe this poem got chosen to be the Poem of the Day! I've never received so many likes, comments, and feedback on any of my poems, so I feel overwhelmed, but very happy. Thank you for taking the time to read my words; it really means alot to me <3 <3
Corey Oct 2017
.1. Life is going to throw the most unexpected curveballs at you and there isn’t a thing you can do about it. You can accept that you’ll never overcome them, or you can learn how to take them and run. You won’t start out hitting home runs off of them, but maybe just bunt a couple and go from there.
2. Life is far too short for what if’s. It’s too short to care about how others think of you. Too short to worry about making everybody happy and way too short to give the wrong people your precious time. And for Gods sake, if you love somebody, tell them! If they already know, tell them often.
3. You have no idea when you might lose somebody you care about. Unfortunately, sometimes you don’t realize how much you cared until they’re gone. Death comes at unexpected times and in unforgiving ways. However, it opens your eyes to so many things about life that you may know, but you don’t live by. Don’t let it go by the first time. Take those lessons and embrace them and live differently.
4. Alcohol is a beautiful poison. Don’t abuse it, enjoy it. If you need six, seven, eight drinks to feel something then you aren’t drinking correctly. Drink less often, have stronger drinks, and don’t drink to blackout.
5. You can do anything for ten seconds. You can do anything for a minute. You can do anything for an hour. You can do anything for a day. You can do anything for a month. You can do anything for a year. You might have to take it a month, a day, an hour, or a minute at a time; but you can do it. Sometimes you need to prove to yourself that you can do something small for a month so that you can do the big thing you need to do for three months.
6. Nothing comes easily forever. You can do something your entire life; something that you don’t need to practice, train, or work too hard for not matter what. Eventually, there will be something harder than you’ve ever done before, and it will not come easily. Don’t be discouraged. What others worked for years to do, you could do in days with little effort. Even like this you will have weaknesses. Work them, even if you don’t need to. That way the day that something is too difficult, it won’t take as much work to get. If you wait, the work will be too much.
7. Nobody cares if you’re sad or having a bad day. They will always expect 100% from you in every regard. You should always be happy. Always be social. Always perform correctly. As impossible as it sounds, the people expecting 100% are satisfied with you faking it.
8. If somebody doesn’t like you; hold your head up high, be polite, engage them in meaningful conversation, and treat them with the utmost respect. Either their minds will change or they’ll be so confused they won’t know what to do. Accept that it will be awkward.
9. Love is funny. Love is sad. Love is perfect. Love is so many things. But it should not be abusive. Abuse comes in way more forms than one. Be on the look out for it. Even the smallest abusive actions have their consequences. Typically they simply build and build.
10. Supportive friends are the friends you want to keep around. The ones that come to your events and cheer you on. The ones that make sure you’re doing okay periodically. The ones that ask you what’s wrong before you even know yourself that something is. Low maintenance friends aren’t bad friends.
11. To do anything other than your passion is absurd. Find it, study it, dive deep into it as best you can. Live for it. And do it for the rest of your life. Hobbies are important. Do those as well, but even those should be filled with passion. It is the one true ineffable feeling.
12. Say yes to opportunities small and large. Anything that puts you outside of your comfort zone, that gives you anxiety just thinking about, is well worth doing. If you don’t do it, you may just regret it for a very long time. Say no only to distractions that prevent you from doing what needs to be done.
13. You cannot re-write the past. No matter how many times you remember something you’ve messed up, you cannot fix it. You also cannot take back spoken words. Be careful what you say at all times. It is far better to wait and think about a response rather than saying what comes to mind first. And do not speak poorly of others behind their backs. It only ends in pain.
14. Make friends wherever you go. Especially if you are uncomfortable with doing so. Talk to strangers on vacations, in the grocery store, and especially at you school or work. One day they might be looking for somebody specific to fill a role that you are perfect for. A simple hello today could be your dream job in the future.
15. Be explorative. How can you have opinions on things you like and dislike if you don’t try everything out in front of you. How can you be cultured if you don’t take the time to learn all cultures. How can you be artistic if you haven’t seen anything worth making into art.
16. The world is changing and you need to change with it. Gender doesn’t mean what it used to mean, and people’s names are changing left and right. Please keep up. It’s offensive to call someone by an old name they had or by the wrong pronoun.
17. It is okay to be deeply sentimental. To hold onto objects that remind you of someone or something. But don’t get wrapped up in these things. Not all of them are important to keep; like messages from four years ago to a person you no longer talk to, or a broken bracelet you used to wear that will never get fixed. Only keep the important things. But do know that what is important to you may not be important to others and visa versa.
18. There is no singular word for all emotions. Though you can find them in other languages; like the French term L’Apple du vide, translated, “the call of the void,” which described the split second phenomenon of wanting to jump off a cliff or pull the steering wheel and crash. You can find these examples, but it’s worth it to sit with a blank page and try and write about what you are feeling in your own words. You learn a lot about yourself and the world.
19. Nature is your best friend. When you’re in a bad mood, go for a walk in the woods. When you’re in the car, roll down the windows and feel the air on your skin. Grow plants that help either yourself, or other animals. Help the bees and the butterflies.
20. Time is scarce when you need it the most. Do not procrastinate anything. Manage your time wisely. Something could be completed in hours; other things need months. This is the idea of hourly time vs. calendar time. But both need to be done spread out, and not all at once.
21. You learn a lot as you grow. When I was eight, I learned that Santa wasn’t real. When I was twelve, I learned how easy it is to break hearts. When I was fifteen, I learned what loss is. When I was eighteen, I learned the difference between love and lust. When I was twenty, I learned what fear is, and since then I have learned how fragile life is. Everything I’ve learned has been preparing me for my future. Eight prepared me for fifteen which prepared me for twenty. Twelve prepared me for eighteen which has prepared me for the present. Every event is a lesson worth learning whether you want it or not. It prepares you for an unknown future. It may take years for the lesson to reveal itself, but it is worth the struggle. Everybody learns something everyday but it is imperative that you remember these things, or at least remember the lesson learned so that in the future you won’t make the same mistake, won’t be in the same type of pain for as long, and won’t have to be taught a second time.
Unedited
Senteno Oracle Of The Shadows: So Aziel what's your plan with Frank?
Aziel: Well he is going to help me destroy the Order Of The Silver Knights and in return I shall help him get the Witch who cursed the Forest Of Whispers.
Senteno Oracle Of The Shadows: Well I'll give you some valuable information who your looking for is Bethilda N. Lement. She is a very powerful Witch who with her Elemental Plowness is able to obtain what she wants.
Aziel: Well well ...so the Old Hag still holds the grip over the Forest doesn't she
Senteno Oracle Of The Shadows: Indeed she isn't someone to take lightly now she is well rounded and knows how to fight. She controls The Tavern Of Doom Dragons. In her possession are 3 fully grown Dragons. Blair the Oldest Dragon Claire The Mother Dragon and Aurora the youngest one of them three.
Blair the Black Dragon Claire The White Dragon and Aurora the Stone/Lighting Dragon. Many have meet their doom entering in her territory Cyclop Human and Vampire Alike.
Aziel: I don't have anything to fear.

~Meanwhile...~

Bethilda Lement: Adreanna I want you to learn more about my Dragons start training with Aurora but be cautious she may be only three years old but she is powerful and robust. Lement screeches then Aurora hovers over the Mountain Of Shen* where the Tavern Of Doom Dragons is located. Adrianna Develve places a strong spell in the Dragon Aurora she finally succumbs to her authority.
Adrianna and Aurora go take down the Golem Of Steel  in the Hidden Ruins Of Odom.* The Golem stands 15 ft high weighs 2,500 pounds. Holding a crest of an almost impenetrable diamond in the middle of his chest. Emanating from the Crystal comes all his power and it's his only weak spot. Then Aurora and Adrianna make an impressionable entrance to the ruins and attack the Golem head on. Golem Of Steel: Here stands the infamous Adrianna Develve...well isn't  this a surprise.  I see that you have grown some and are able to maintain your powers well to face me. I know what you want you want the Crystal in my chest...that will be over my dead body. Audon's Crystal* is powerful enough to consume 1000 Well Trained Witches therefore young Witch you don't scare me. Now as for that Dragon well ... perhaps you stand a chance after all.  Adrianna Develve: I usually don't pick fights with powerful DemiGods like yourself but I  am in desperate need for your Crystal. Therefore, you will hand it over or I'll take it by force.  Golem Of Steel:  Good Luck.
Aurora shields herself with Stone Armor and goes head on collision with the Golem. He dodges the attack and  counterattacks with a strong fist to the  Dragons body and knocks Aurora down cracking part of her Stone Armor. The young female Dragon counterattacks with a powerful lighting blast hitting The Steel Golem in the right shoulder injuring him. Develve attacks with a powerful mind blast knocking down the Golem Of Steel on it's back. The Golem Of Steel bleeds blue blood out of his shoulder blade and runs full force towards Adrianna Develve.  She  dashes the attack and counterattacks  with a Shadow Ball attack hitting him in the chest and expanding all over its body. It's a possession Ninjutsu technique making him practically paralyzed for about 2 minutes till he breaks free from the technique but sustains a considerable amount of damage. Adrianna Develve seeing that the Golem Of Steel is showing a sign of weakness she takes advantage to try to inflict him with a spear of lighting into the chest impairing him and he bleeds out the mouth but as the last resolution The Golem Of Steel punches the Audon Crystal shattering it into 5 individual pieces him losing his life in the process however what he didn't know is that Adrianna Develve collected all the pieces however there was a violent explosion at the site shattering huge boulders of steel and inflicting Aurora gravely. Adrianna Develve  hurries and performs a powerful healing spell leaving her drained of all power. Adrianna Develve hurries to get out of the ruins because they are crumbling down. She manages to recover Aurora briefly from there they fly to The Tavern Of Doom Dragons Of Doom Dragons right when she pulls in with Aurora who is injured from the boulders hitting her body and face at high velocity even the Rock Armor was perforated. The Dragon lands barely with Adrianna Develve who gets the Wrath of Granny Bethilda N. Lement. Aurora breathing heavily and bleeding out the mouth slipping in and out of consciousness ...Adrianna Develve barely getting off the Dragon.
Bethilda Lement: What the hell  happened to Aurora she is in really bad shape. Adrianna your completely drained I see you did good by healing her however, she must rest for about 3-4 days now and fully recover from that gruesome fight with that **** Golem Of Steel. Adrianna are you Ok darling? Go get some rest I see you used the forbidden technique of Soul Healing Transfer. Well now you'll live 12 years less thanks to your little sharede. Develve I am thankful that you saved my Dragon from dying but hell consequences are quite dire.
Develve: Here Granny Lement I got Audon's Diamond however it's shattered in 5 separate pieces.
Bethilda N. Lement:  Let me guess the Golem Of Steel did not want this to fall under the wrong hands for it is a powerful relic. Smart move buying time however, useless due to the fact that we got the diamond under our possession. Adrianna we are going to search the Master Forger Of Relics* who can aid us recover this valuable relic to it's original state. It's said that he resides in one of the headquarters of the Order however, he has worked with Witches, Pagans and Nacromancers before so am sure that as long as we provide the right monetary value to repair the relic he'll work for us.
Develve: Why don't we just kidnap him and make him do the work or he pays with his life?
Lement:  Good objective it may have to work that way for us.
Develve: Im aware that the Cyclop population in the Village Of Chalekathan are not taking your threats seriously well ElderLord Gromm has not paid his fee from allowing them to live and not be consumed by the curse itself.
Lement: By killing him we can set an example of what can happen to them if they don't cooperate with our cause.
Develve: It dangerous though he is a strong Leader with lots of powerful influences. Plus he is a highly skilled Witch Doctor/Shaman able to manipulate the forces of nature. Known to use 3 Godly Deities Aikune Chalekathan & Eion. Aikune the cherubim of the Northern Side Of Heaven. Chalekathan the Spirit God embodiment of The Forest Of Whispers and last but not least Eion the mythical creature with an Eagle face 6 wings and the body of a Lion. Embuted with heavenly essence making him a very formidable foe.
Develve:  We will take care of our responsibilities soon but our primary mission is to talk Ayeiton Balderoux III* the Master Forger Of Relics.
: Whoa had no idea he was The Kings kin.
Lement: Indeed he is now go and lay your head and recover some energy because we need to practice your magical plowness.
Adrianna heads towards the Guest Room.

~Meanwhile in The Forest Of Whispers~
Frank Deltoro gets introduced to Gromm ElderLord Of Chalekathan by Jhino.  He also introduces Navarro Castleworth who is pleased to meet the famous Elder.
Gromm: Hello young man I am the protector of this village which has sustained numerous attacks by Lement's Dragons. Develve also partook enthusiastically with her Grandmother in attacking innocent hard working Cyclops. Making them slaves of the Curse which drives them mad and homicidal attacking friends brothers and family so we had to do the inevitable put them down.
Nevertheless, I pray to Deynave Dion High Saint/Priestess Queen Of All Shamanism to protect the lost souls of them Cyclops who fought the curse till the very end but unfortunately lost the fight and in turn lost their lives.
Frank: My condolences to your friends ElderLord Gromm.Am sure they in a better place now at least not suffering. However, I have a personal matter to score with Lement. She kidnapped and murdered my only daughter 10 years ago she was a...his voice gets trembly and he lightly clears his throat..at the same time a solid solo tear drops from his only Eye symbolizing a Fathers great pain and suffering from such an atrocious act." Gromm regains his composure. I got a personal score to settle with Mrs.Lement due to the fact that she took a piece of my heart and soul she killed my daughter. Develve played her part in the kidnapping of my baby girl 10 years ago she would be 18 years old today if Shaila Dair Sultran were alive...her appointed time to be brutally killed by my hand is coming...Bethilda N. Lement has been suppressing her powers for the last 300 years I believe she has some sort of powerful anti-chi barrier put up extending tremendous lengths so even if she is active in The Forest Of Whispers we wouldn't know how to tell due to this **** barrier.
Frank: So your bloodline comes from the Ancient times from the powerful Cyclop Of Royal Priests/Witch Doctors family Sultran.
"A gentle wind blows and Aziel telepathically communicates with Frank.  Aziel: Frank, be careful where you thread I been informed that Lement's Grand-Daughter Adrianna Develve recently gathered Audon's Crystal a powerful diamond known to give its user Bending Steel abilities and higher sustainability. Adrianna Develve has plans to use the Crystal to fully cover the Forest Of Whispers covering every inch of Forest with the Curse which drives all living creatures with a conscious mad totally subseptable to their influence.
However, to you those must be terrible news so my question is...you been in Chalekathan Village for 1 hr and a half you have 5.3 hrs till daylight removing the Darkness powers you currently control.
Frank: I am aware of this Aziel don't worry I'll take care of business.
Aziel: Keep an eye out Navarro I don't  trust him I don't know what intentions he has...plus he is part  of that shady Tower Of Frejoird but perhaps you can use his hatred towards the Order Of The Silver Knights. He can maybe be a reliable source. Be careful Frank.

~Meanwhile in Aziel Castle~
Isis: Well...Aziel aren't  you such a concerned individual...I didn't  know you had a soft spot towards mere humans.
Aziel: I usually don't...but Frank is different from the rest. He is courageous trustworthy and he put his life at risk by helping me regain all my vampiric power. I am in much debt to him...am having second thoughts on your plans to **** him after he completes his assignments that we have agreed upon. If he makes it out alive after all this...he at least deserves a reward and to live.
Isis: Chuckles at Aziel Aziel looks at the Empress with great focus.
Isis: C'mon I'll just have some fun with Frank I wasn't planning to ****** him.
Aziel: I'll  think about it now leave me be I got couple of things I need to take care of.
Isis: Fine Darling I'll  leave you be. You know you are the handsomest of all the brothers you have.
Aziel: Well now Isis you flirting with me...I doubt you'll want my erected tool up your stash. Don't you remember am a Vampire?
Isis: I'm aware of that. Adventure sounds fun plus I never had *** with a hot vampire like yourself.
Isis: Well Doll that is going to be some other time I am working against the clock right now.
Isis: Fine you *****...I'll leave. However, keep in mind that Im watching you closely. Plus remember I still keep contact with DarkLord for soon your Father will be back in this plane of reality.
Aziel: So I have heard.
Isis: Well I have found some juicy
Information about Uriels wereabouts he is in a Modern Castle in America. Amelia St and Cross. Residency 106. He is a huge celebrity in Russia and Germany. Keeps his bloodlust at check with fresh blood always for him to self medicate. Looking only 19 years old he is quite the chick magnet though not my taste his Gothic Progressive Horror Rock made him quite famous. Got 5 albums however kept his personal life well hidden from his fans. Many fake and supportive accounts claiming to know the real Uriel Governale. Though no one truly knows he is a vampire for certain. I know because I searched the private records and found out that he belongs to a High Ranking Secret Society known as Maximillion Vampire Clan. Which performs innocent human babies to be given as a sacrifice towards Baphomet and Azmodeus* 2 Of the Demon Lords of Hell. Your brother belongs to this hidden organization that operates in the Shadows but their latest project is to revive your Father the Progenitor most infamous VampireLord of all time. Dracula! Humanity will cease to exist if he were to be revived. All they need is a vial of blood from all of the current 8 saints and they have their eye on Saint Lauren Glennwald from the Eastern Side of Germany from a small rural community town known as Hertzentmort. She currently 25 years old is on a mission to collect Papal papers for the Order for you know they are closely tied to the papalcy. However, she got body guards that are Elite Knights with very powerful Anti-Witch spells and very accurate at pinpointing weak points in any battle with powerful Witches. So going alone isn't very advisable.<br>
Aziel: I greatly appreciate your information I'll take a look on what my little brother is looking to do. I'll take care of him. Don't you worry I'll be seeing you later. <br>
Isis: Alright..."She steps towards Aziel and rubs his chest and says...my reward is waiting for me...and looks down his pants" <br>
Aziel:  Now your tempting me to destroy that *****... but here this is what you'll get "he shows her his ****"<br>
Isis: Mmmm I can't wait baby...well that's a massive apparatus you got in there just hiding.<br>
Aziel: Hahaha...right. Soon enough I'll be all yours to play with. No leave me.<br>
Isis transforms to a cloud of dark myst and leaves the premises of the Castle.<br>
<br>
~Meanwhile in Uriel's Castle~<br>
<br>
The Maximillion Vampire Club had a secret meeting in the Uriel's Castle. There where many prestigious and famous guests there and so was the Highest Ranking Vampire of the Club Maximillion Virgil Vann himself. Inside the Castle where also uninvited guests from The Order Of The Silver Knights pretending to be Vampires. His name Michael Neil Stalwart & his partner Aalyaah Black. Both of them infiltrated the party somehow the Order Of The Silver Knights caught wind of shady operations in the occult club and decided to check it out. Michael & Aalyaah belong to Stealth/Infiltration part of the Order known as The Dark Ones
. Even the last 5 remaining Dark Priests from the Cathedral Of Skylor* where 13 years ago Baphomet was revived and mortalized to walk upon humans granting favors for a price. Ultimately the price Demon Lords require of humans is their souls to consume them and become more powerful. This 5 Dark Priests where very important in the ceremony taking place because tonight at 3 a.m. they will unify their powers to revive Azmodeus. They were successful on bringing back Baphomet back to life so they are trying to revive another Demon Lord. In Baphomet's revival they used 666 unborn fetuses with 6 babies 3 male and 3 female all born under the sign of Capricorn and all must be 3 months premature. With this requirements met...Baphomet was revived to this plane of existence, however since he was violent and still hellbent from transitioning from the hellish plane to a mortal one he killed and consumed 3 Dark Priests in the process of fully coming to his senses and being able to recognize them and thank them for what they done. Baphomet promised that he would aid them 5 Dark Priests revive all 13 Demon Lords and in turn 2 Of the 5 remaining Dark Priests must sacrifice themselves to the Demon Lords for the strongest remaining 3 get a extraordinary reward.
Jack Jul 2014
~

Happy Birthday Wishes Sye


Sye, a few of your friends wanted to send you happy wishes on this
your 17th birthday. I hope you enjoy this.  

~~~

Happy Birthday Sweet Niece!
Sye, you are beyond amazing in your talents for writing, your beauty of soul and your caring and compassion. What a gift to our community on HP and the entire Universe that you are here! I am so very glad I met you!!! I hope this birthday and the year ahead are the best ever for you!
With much love,
Aunt Pamela

~~~

Seventeen, as cute as seven.
Funny as Hell, sweet as Heaven.
It's not hard to grasp just why
We love you so deeply, Sye.

Birthday hugs from Norway!
-Sverre

~~~

Sweet Seventeen, a year so Sweet to bring Your Dreams into the World, Live them Proud and True, just for You!!
I Wish You a Very Happy Birthday Sye!
~ Venusoul7~

~~~

Happy Birthday "Daughter"
You are a Blessing who touches each life you enter,(as you have mine)
My wish for you this day, is that the Love and Happiness return to you ten-fold.
Happy B-Day Sweetheart! Paula

~~~

Hippy buffday to you!
Wishing you blessings anew
May your days be
Full of sunshine and laughter
And joyful songs too ***
Petal Pie

~~~

Happy Birthday Sye

A day of Celebration
of contemplation
The last remains of a year
The dawn of the new

A dawn...
Filled with wonder
With beauty
An adventure

Bask in the sunshine
Embrace the rain
From pain
Do you grow

My wish for you...

Live life
Open hearted

Your flower is blooming
Revealing the beauty
Within your heart and soul

Kelly Rose

~~~

17 candles a top the fruit cake
Your friends and family
Nigh to celebrate this great milestone
Wine glasses raised~
In honor of you
God has added yet another year
May your life be filled with so much joy~
And good health be your portion always
Happy birthday Sye…

Cassie

~~~

May Sye have a wonderful birthday as wonderful as her poetry.
Briar Thornit

---

Hello young Sye on the occasion of your birthday. You are a young lady who has so much still to offer the world of poetry and you can only get better

Keep on writing Sye

Old man Joe

~~~

Happy Birthday Sye

Young at heart, a mind for words
may you have a day of joy,
With many happy returns,
have fun let it all go its your day
so do what ever is your fancy
Have well remembered birthday fun :)

Poetic T :)

~~~

Only friends for a while
yet I know you're so kind
with that beautiful smile
you'll never be left behind

This wee bonnie lass
has a birthday today
such a kind and sweet soul
in our hearts she'll forever remain

Have a fantastic day Sye **

Louise

~~~

Tae Sye

Wi' a' the monie ways tae say,
I find I lack skill;
Tae ye, wi' a' me greetings lay,
Pray, o't, tak yowre fill!

Och, sic a bonnie lass as ye,
My hearty blessin';
Sae monie mowre ye Birthdays be,
Wi' a' the dressin'!

'Tis a sma' thing tae say,
Happy, Happy, Birthday!

'Tis a' for thee
Dear S. Y. E.

~Timothy~

~~~

Princess Sye you are amazing:) I have came to learn so much by you, and you have been a wonderful friend to me:) I hope this birthday finds you well:) Miles of smiles and much love always:)

Jonathan E Furches

~~~

betterdays 2 days ago
hello sye
my understanding is it is your17th birthday ....in honour of that and your amorevolous nature
i give you, these word gifts.
two quotes:
"blessed are the curious,
for they shall have
adventures"
Lovelle Drachman.
and
"For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone"
attributed to,
Audrey Hepburn
but really Sam Lenvenson.
and
my best wishes for a, eellogofusciouhipopp-okunurious (good)
day
hugs and kisses
betterdays
p.s.amorevolous- loving and giving beyond self, nature.

~~~~

Dear Sye,

Uh - 17. Young enough to be stupidly foolish and wise enough not to realize it. Your writing has touched many, including me. Thanks for sharing your inner self. Happiest of Birthdays to you Miss Sye. Wishes for many happy returns of the Day.
Your friend in poetry, Kim

~~~


"I look at you and see so much promise
so full of life and always ready to help
although I have not known you much
I can see your beautiful soul through your words.
You turn 17 today and my wish for you is simple,
I hope you have enough courage to stand your ground,
to write what's true to you and do all that you love,
that you follow your dreams and
be the beautiful woman you were meant to be.

Happy Birthday, Sye :)
- H.U."

~~~

Sye as in sigh but also the world, from Korea to marine flag languages and morse code like this ...-.--.
I saw your name as a barcode while shopping for words,
these are what I bought: Happy Birthday to you Sye the World.

Regis Keuren

~~~

Sweet sixteen plus one
Oh what fun
The Sye flower will blossom
More and more so awesome.
She is loved by many here
Who find her so Dear.
Happy Birthday Dear Sye
Now you may cry.

Grandpa john

~~~

Happy birthday to my beautiful little sis! I wish you the most spectacular of days and the best of years. You deserve all the happiness and love, life has to offer!

You have been such a great friend and are always so kind and supportive. You amaze me with your wisdom and talent, sweet one. I am in awe of you, gorgeous! I feel so blessed to have met you!

Syeshine

The radiance
Beaming from
Your golden heart
Eclipses the sun
Sending light
And love
To all who bask
In the warmth
Of your sweet
Friendship...

Love you Sye!

Your adoring sis,
Kalypso

~~~

Thank you Sye for your excellent poetry as it's a gift to us all. Best of wishes on your birthday; you deserve all of the attention you get and, thanks to Jacks rally of poets, this attention can get to you. With pleasure, I salute thee -

Peter Watkins

~~~

Happy Birthday Sye! You are going to go so far in this world sweetie! Have an amazing day my friend! Continue to write amazing poetry.
Peace and Love
Margaret

~~~

Birthday wishes sent to you in hope that all your dreams come true x

Calpurnia Mockingbird

~~~

Oh, my Sye, my sweet, sweet, Sye
Wonderful sister and dear poet of mine
Words emerge from your stunning mind
And paint visions for all to read
But today is not about what you create
It's what God created 17 years ago
A wonderful person and talented friend
My non-blood sister to the end
Happy birthday my dear sister
Today is dedicated solely for you
Live it up and enjoy the wonders of life
And make sure to get some cake too!

Madalyn Beck

~~~

And now it is my turn. To my sweetest friend on your special day…
As you look above and see all of these people, your friends and family
from Hellopoetry sending you love and beautiful birthday wishes,
I want you to know that you are my best friend in the entire world
and I wish you all that makes you smile, every happiness and joy
this coming year and those to follow have to offer.

Happy Birthday sweet Sye.

Your smile lights the world,

Jack
Thank you to everyone who participated in this with me. I appreciate your kindness more than you know.
Corvus Jul 2016
Spending a month in a hospital teaches you a lot about people.
The doctor that told me to shave my head or she wouldn't treat me,
The nurses that spent forever chatting to me
And giving me supportive advice about how my illness doesn't define me.
The woman who was given a terminal cancer sentence
And chose not to pay attention to it and defied it anyway.
How she sat next to me on my bed,
Told me that all suffering is valid,
And just because I'm not dying, doesn't mean I don't get to complain.
How she complains more about her skin problems
Than she ever complained about her cancer,
And that's OK, because pain rarely follows rules.
I never even learned her name,
But she gave me the words I hold most closely to me
On those days when I want to fall asleep and never wake up.
I'm allowed to scream and shout and rage against the pain
And the unfairness of it happening to me.
I just have to make sure I know where the line is
Between giving my darkness a voice and pitying myself.
Storm Raven Oct 2015
Respect for everyone on here who acts so sweet,
Little acts of kindness everywhere,
Intelligent poetry and clever comments,
Supportive people and sometimes a kind private message.
Being on here restores my faith in humanity.
The people on here are beautiful, all in their own way.
Never I will say without flaws, we are all humans here.
No, we aren't without flaws, that us the best part,  we accept each others flaws.
Respect for everyone here who votes on my poetry.
I am happy with people like you.
And the nice comments on here, on my works and on the works of others, I am proud to be part of this community.
And to anyone who send me kind private messages, you are the best.
Respect for everyone on here, first of all for being human beings.
Secondly because you being so wonderful.
Respect and thank you
Not a poem but I want to say this, thank you everyone. Stay strong and respect
Matt Jul 2015
Elsa is so kind
She always writes
Supportive comments

I send a hug
Through the web
To you Elsa

Maybe I'll give my pillow
A small hug and pretend
It's you

Well,
If that's okay with you
you posted a coming out video today.
you've left your boyfriend and you're accepting who you are.
I'm happy for you.
I just wish you had found someone else, somewhere else, something else to test the waters on.
After years of hoping, you gave me the chance
to hold you and touch you
and I felt like I could dance all night.
But suddenly, you flipped a switch
and asked
me
not
to
tell
your
boyfriend.
I'm sorry we haven't spoken since then. Maybe I wasn't enough for you. I know for sure that I'm not enough now.
I'm sorry that I can't tell you this in person.
I've come to a realization. I can be angry. I can be hurt. I can be proud. I can be supportive. But I'm afraid that I must be all of these things in silence. I can't be directly involved anymore.
I don't owe you anything
and
you don't owe me.
Consider us even.
Maria Oct 2010
Purple has always been my favorite color.
Mixed with Red, the color of passion,
And Blue, the color of dreams.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved purple.
“Dark purple” I would add, “With sparkles”
I had to specify, and toss in a cute giggle.

I was so young then. So innocent and naïve
I didn’t know that purple could symbolize something
Something like peoples’ rights.

That was back in the days when “gay” was just a word
Often appearing in Christmas songs
I always knew it to mean, “happy.”

So, when I heard that two men were gay
I was happy, because that must mean that
They’re happy.

When I got older, I learned that happy as those men may be
Others weren’t happy for them.
People weren’t happy that these men were gay.

I never saw anything wrong with it.
I was not gay, but I was supportive.
I didn’t care what other people liked.

Then the term, “bisexual” came up
And that blew my mind.
People could like men and women?

No! I was straight! Of course I was.
I didn’t like women, but I didn’t care if you did
I liked men. That was that.

And then there came the fatal attraction
Nearing me towards bisexuality,
And I embraced it.

All of the sudden, I liked men and women.
Without even realizing that it was in me,
I realized I liked them.

My mother was shocked, but supportive.
My father was the same.
My brother still doesn’t know.

My friends were all excited for me.
Some were confused.
Even a year after realizing it, some couldn’t tell.

Some thought I was joking. Some still do.
But nope, I was not.
I was bisexual.

I grew up Catholic, and I knew
That God loved all his children,
And every creature great and small.

And I believe this;
If God made me, wouldn’t he want me to be happy
With whoever I want?

If Heaven is that cold,
Then maybe I want to be cradled
In the warm fires of Hell.

If God is our father
Satan is our Uncle
Our gay uncle apparently.

Man. Woman. I just don’t care,
So long as they love me for me
And I love them for them,

I couldn’t be happier.
One day I will find someone, but I don’t know
If it will be a male or female.

But it will be someone.
And I will always wave the purple flag proud.
Free and happy.
True story.
Diamond Dahl Nov 2012
What is giving? In a relationship sense, giving goes beyond basic human consideration or being a good roommate. Beyond taking someone else's plate when they've finished dinner, or hanging up his or her jackets when they've dropped it on the floor. It's sharing thoughts, and feelings, and being genuinely interested in hearing another's. It's surprising someone with a key lime pie. Or finally going to the stupid guy movie because, though not a fan of guy movies, his company will be more enjoyable than the movie will be unenjoyable. Giving is, even though you don't really want to go for a walk down to the park, it will make her happy. Giving is putting another's happiness before your own, because causing them joy brings you joy. Just as causing them pain brings you pain. Giving is also being grateful, and acknowledging, when someone has done a household chore you weren't looking forward to doing. And saying thank you every single time someone drops you off for work, every day. Giving is finding a safer spot for your significant other's prized possessions -- antique works of Shakespeare, or reptiles. It's having someone's clothes packed for an emergency trip before they can even ask. Giving is a dozen attempts to hang the TV properly. Giving is being willing to run around Disney with her and her crazy sister, 21 and 15 respectively, for a princess and pirate party. Giving is sitting on the trunk of your car at 2:30 in the morning cause you read she was crying on her kitchen floor with no where to sleep, debating on telling her you're outside if she wants to talk (albeit a little stalkerish). Giving is trying melatonin, with little hope of it working, cause you know she loves you and worries about Tylenol PM. Giving is nagging her (them) to go to bed after she's (they've) fallen asleep on the couch, to the point of frustration, but you just want her (them) to be more comfortable in the bed. It's also knowing that being asleep on the couch, near you, is sometimes more important than being in the comfy bed, away from you. Giving is the harder stuff too, taking is too easy. Giving is sometimes realizing that yes, you do need to stew for a bit. But anything more than an hour is detrimental to fixing the problem. And sometimes you also need to yell (10 minutes, TOPS). Then you act like an adult and deal with it. Sometimes giving is telling yourself you're overreacting, to take a deep breath, and go get a kiss instead of continuing to stew. And sometimes it's swallowing the lump in your throat and saying, "I'm struggling." Or "this has been bothering me," or "I'm sorry." Giving is also adding to "I'm sorry," "this is how I'll try to be better." Giving is accepting certain things, or people, for what or who they are. Giving is indeed standing strong and saying, "you picked me, this is who I am," because no one can change you, but realizing that some suggestions of change are for the better. Giving may also mean coming to the end of your nagging and saying, "that change will come when he/she is ready to," making it that much sweeter. Giving is not "I'm going to do what I want, when I want." Giving is realizing someone is depending on you, or thinking about you, or holding dinner for you. Giving is knowing that someone just needs to see your face to feel better, so you put on the sweetest, most comforting, most supportive expression for when they do. Giving is sharing your plans, for 10 years from now, for next summer, and for this evening. And to speak about those plans in an inclusive manner, like you can see that person there with you.
Written Sept. 2011
This is Not poetry.
Dahlia May 2019
I have been here before, and with this same pen, I express myself through words.
To better understand myself, and to avoid being misunderstood.

Some call it bewitched, but I call it love.
There is an emptiness in the freedom of being alone,
And liberty in being caught in that divine spell.

The day that I stop writing love poetry is the day that my pen's ink will run out,
Along with my sense of connection to humanity.

Love is hard, and so difficult to describe,
Too complex to express simply by stringing words together.
Yet here I am, trying over and over,  
Always feeling limited, unfulfilled, unsatisfied.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I have been here before, I am comforted by love's familiarity,
Its pleasant tenderness, shining like rays of sun, enveloping me in warmth and sincerity.
Its floral fragrance in the form of beautiful golden sunflowers,
Bundled with red ribbon at the stems, followed by conversations that go on for hours.
Its sweet taste in the form of kisses, followed by more and more and more, all over my cheeks and face,
Until there is not a spot that his lips have not touched, and then I point lower, to a different space.
I want more but I am too timid to say,
But my flushed cheeks and smile gives it away anyway.

But, I've also been here before, reminiscing on this familiarity,
I am then reminded of the heartache that follows, and I get a sense of polarity.
The shattered promises of forever, and the final goodbyes,
The returning of sweaters that smell like him while holding back desperate cries.
The empty and cold interactions as he shuts the door behind him,
The sinking loneliness as I stand in the room that is now increasingly dim.
The racking sobs as my heart begs me to stop doing this to myself,
So, I take the thought of love, lock it in a box, and put it high on a shelf.


But, I have been here before, knowing that I cannot stop,
Love is embedded deep inside of me, it is not something I can just drop.
My heart knows how capable I am to feel such raw emotions,
It flows gracefully through me, and soars with plummeting waves like the ocean.
My heart demands to spark a flame in the one who ignited such feelings inside of me,
It longs and yearns to douse them with love and unwavering loyalty.
It demands to be expressed, through every form of self-expression that I use,
Whether that is poetry, painting, music, whatever outlet I choose to let loose.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I have been here before, trying to express my feeling of love.
It is difficult and frustrating, and most attempts are ripped apart and disposed of.
I have been trying to describe love for years, and still feel unsatisfied,
The countless filled notebooks are evidence of all the times that I have tried.
I cannot find how to put it simply but in a beautiful way,
I write about it for hours and hours, from night until day.
I want to be cherished for not only who I am, but who I was, and how I came to be,
So instead of writing about love, I will write about how to better love me.

I have not been here before, so I will take it slow,
If it helps you better understand me, please let me know.
This is for you, if you want to love me,
It is complex and it may not come immediately.
Please understand that it will take time,
For you to love me the way that I need, this is not just a rhyme.
This is new to me, I have not been here before,
If it makes you see the real me, for you I will write more.
I have not been here before, but I am still using the same pen,
If you follow my trail of disorganized thinking, please nod every now and then.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I am honest, and I will never lie.
I want you to be my best friend before being my guy.
I want to build a sense of familiarity -- to know about you and your life.
I want consistency, continuous communication, so we can avoid all strife.
I want passion and longing, the magnetic pull between our lips and bodies until they unify.
I want "I love you"s to be meaningful, not fillers to be thrown in when our conversation dies.

He must know that the "he" in this story, could also be a she.
My ability to love isn't limited by appearances that fade with time, life’s bittersweet guarantee.
He must know my personality, my strengths, goals, hopes, and dreams,
And when we fight, he must remember that we are not on opposing teams.
He must know how to support me and my life goals, how to motivate me,
When the coldness of the world frightens me, and I search for ways to escape reality.
He must want the best for me, for me to be happy, even if that is not by his side,
If we realize that we are not compatible, or our relationship makes us feel unsatisfied.
He must know my weaknesses, my flaws.
My tendency to push away when I am overwhelmed, and how to find the probable cause.
He must know that though I love to care for others, I am not great at caring for my own body.
My self-destructive nature has a story of its own, and it is not shared with everybody.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I have been here before, and with the same pen, I try to help him understand me,
I have been fighting my demons for a long time, and I can't remove the shackles that would set me free.
He feels a need to fix me, as if I were a broken wine glass,
I tell him to mind his footing, bringing attention to the pieces he should avoid and overpass.
He thinks that sweet words could be the glue to adhere my shards together,
And praises the curvature of my body, accentuated by a jacket made of leather.
He believes that he could love me more than anyone else has, and by doing so, he would mend me,
I quietly sigh, close my eyes, and slowly count to three.

I have been here before, and with the same pen, I try to make him see,
My broken pieces are not mean to be picked up by fragile hands, nor by anybody.
He learns this when the sharp sting of glass runs along the tips of his digits,
He realizes that the scars on my fingers were from all the attempts I made when I felt brave and ambitious.
Trust me, I have been there before -- I know how much it hurts, I do not want you to share my pain,
I know that I am a sad girl, but still some happiness remains.
I want to embrace this darkness, my ability to feel emotions so immense,
My dear, there is no need to put your fists up in defense.

I have been here before, and I watch him try to fit the pieces together,
But they are sharp, merciless, and weigh much more than a feather.
They are not a puzzle, they do not even fit me anymore,
But he becomes increasingly frustrated, exclaiming that this is more than he asked for.
I try to make him understand that they do not define me,
I only want them to be a visual for my story, I do not need them to be complete, nor to feel free.
I want him to see my past and my struggles, laid on the table,
Only then he will know how intricately strong the roots are that ground me and keep me stable.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I have been here before, and I don't feel like rhyming anymore,
It took me a long time to understand myself and what I stand for.

The shattered pieces that lay before him are all of the times I've lost a piece of myself;
The innocence that I clung to for so long and had to drop in order to survive and adapt.
The ideologies of supportive families, shattered by abusive alcoholics that no one questioned.
The expectations of loving and supportive friends, broken by betrayal and abandonment.
The life that I once knew, had to leave behind, and the shock that crackled my perspective and forever changed me.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I have been here before, and with the same pen, I try to reassure him,
But he is drowning in my sorrows and has forgotten how to swim.
He feels a need to scare away my demons, and cure what plagues my mind,
He becomes frightened by my pain and wants to protect me, so he covers my eyes.
But my self-destructive nature was never his job to correct,
I try to help him understand that I am grateful, I never meant any disrespect.

I have been here before, and with the same pen, I try prove that I am his equal and that we are the same,
I am not expecting him to be anything more than he is, I am not a helpless dame.
But he feels that it is his duty as a man to complete me, to support me, to give me a reason to smile.
I put down my pen, and and stare into his eyes for a while.

Though I may be broken, I am complete on my own.
The only support I want is holding hands as we walk side by side, not in the form of you carrying me.
Our world is beautiful enough to make me smile, I only want to enjoy it alongside you.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

But, I have been here before, and I have been through all that.
For 24 years actually, so that makes me stronger than you.
I am better equipped and more than capable to deal with certain things on my own,
These pieces are not even a part of me anymore.
My demons do not need to be slain by a knight in shining armor, because they are more afraid of me.
They know what I've overcome, and know that I will not take **** from anybody.

I've been here before, and with the same pen, I acknowledge my strength,
I've rebuilt the walls of my wine glass exterior with precise width and length.
I designed them using the knowledge that I have gained from my hardships and where I went wrong,
I shaped and molded them with the experiences that have taught me how to be strong.
And I placed seeds that blossomed when nourished by my own self-determination,
I spent many years adding to my durable and unbreakable flooring and foundation.
I painted the walls crimson red, and hung golden accents on the ceiling,
And laid mats to meditate on when I am hurting and need healing.

I have been here before, and I've created this for myself,
I will invite you in, if you'd like to see it for yourself.
I am strong, I am intelligent, and I hope to be more brave,
But I am a lover and a fighter, so please don't think that I need to be saved.
I want to share this beautiful experience of life with you,
But it is not a journey that you have to carry me through.
We will put on comfortable shoes and make our way together,
And we'll prepare for obstacles, challenges, and unpleasant weather.

I have been here before, and I see that look in his eyes,
The corners of his lips curl down and he feels the need to apologize.
I don't need an apology, or for you to change who you are,
Let's enjoy our time together and have a cigar.
The universe granted us to exist alongside each other, and we have crossed paths for a reason,
So please enjoy the warm weather with me this season.
There are so many beautiful sights out there,
I don't care what we do, or where we go, we can go to Times Square!
As long as I'm by your side, and you love me,
In the most pure, raw, and passionate form, it would make me so happy.
Put on the other headphone in and listen to this song,
I think now that you understand how to better love me, you can do no wrong.
I put my pen down as we listen along,
I dedicate a playlist to him, filled with love songs.

I have been here before, and even though my pen is down,
It seems that I cannot and will not stop expressing love.
Love trusts, lust twists
Love rains, lust drains
Love reaches, lust catches
Love couples, lust combines

Love retains, lust detains
Love relies, lust relays
Love cares, lust caresses
Love binds, lust blinds

Love floats, lust flees
Love belongs, lust longs
Love ascends, lust descends
Love fames, lust defames

Love creates, lust recreates
Love commands, lust demands
Love chooses, lust chases
Love boosts,  lust boasts

Love at heart
Lust in mind
Love in lust is good
Lust in love is better
  
Love likes privacy
Lust looks for piracy
Love opens lust
Lust closes love

Love is slow, lust is fast
Love is steady and stable
Lust is mobile and fragile
Love is reliable, lust is liable
Love is long, lust is short
  
Love is homogeneous
Lust is heterogeneous
Love is defensive
Lust is offensive
  
Love is precious
Lust is pernicious
Love is supportive
Lust is supplementary
  
Love is refined
Lust is defined
Love betters life
Lust batters it.
  
Love has character
Lust has conduct
Love wins over
Lust weans out
  
Love combines
Lust divides
Love is cool
Lust is crazy
Love is peaceful
Lust is pleasant
  
Love is wholesome
Lust is piecemeal
Lust comes first
Love becomes best

Love is progressive
Lust is aggressive
Lust laminates
Love illuminates

Love is slow n steady
Lust is hasty n nasty
Love is dense, lust is tense
Lust is conditioned,
Love is air-conditioned
  
Lust is lovely to begin with
Love is lustrous to end up
Love heals, lust wounds
Love owns, lust disowns
  
Love is onus, lust is onerous
Love is basic, lust is allowance
Love conforms, lust confuses
Love binds, lust blinds

Be aware of love
Beware of lust
That comes like
wolf in sheep’s clothing

Let the fair blend
of love and lust
rule  the roost
it's contradictory
the way she acts and what she says to me

But was it a definitive answer?
You should go back and ask her.


Don’t tell me something
Unless you realize there’s nothing
I could ever possibly care about
That could come out of your mouth


Was what she said
So thanks, man, but I think it might be dead.

Why is 'might' your take on that?

I know how they work, she'll crawl back.

clearly

beer me
slant rhyme
kenny Dec 2013
Are you done
losing your mind yet?
You just get so weird
Sometimes
Do you know what other
people say?
You're the reason
You're alone
You did this to yourself
Have you tried not
being this way?
You just gotta put
forth the effort
to not feel so empty
Let the machines
fill you with compassion
Like I ******* chose this
2010 one last remark about Mom she’s never had faith or trust in me she always doubts redirects me when i was little she continuously blamed me accusing me of being sick needing a psychiatrist at age 20 my parents committed me for disciplinary reasons to the Institute of Living a psychiatric hospital in Hartford Connecticut in a locked ward for 4 months Mom and Dad discouraged my aspirations to succeed as a painter/writer arguing the impracticality of my decision they thumbs downed Bayli even today she undermines my efforts to love protect her she scolds me for asking permission from my cousin Chris to allow his son Maynard to fly down here and help me pack then drive up to Chicago so i might get to know Maynard on a road trip she instructs hire professional packers for a $100. they’ll be glad to help you pack Mom has always stood in the way of my choices decisions



1975 Chicago in his parent’s kitchen Mom offers the cannolis are fresh from Kanella’s Bakery or try the chocolate fudge cake it’s absolutely delicious Odysseus replies are you trying to fatten me up or **** me with sweets Mom flirtatiously teases i’ve always been about your ruination Odys



2001 Tucson Mom comes for visit at Thanksgiving in her early 80s walking proud yet painfully on displaced hips she is an inspiration to Odysseus her eyes are clouded with cataracts yet she sees life as an eternal optimist since 1920 the world has changed so drastically yet Mom has learned to accept many things she previously did not tolerate she lives prudently on modest fixed income her fingers are arthritically deformed but she was once a great beauty many men desired her Odysseus asks if it was difficult for Mom to lose the power of her physical desirability he noticed her good looks waning in her 50s she answers she sensed her  attraction going in her 70s she still possesses regal qualities and is quite socially charming she chatters a flurry of familiar names events that keep her busy she travels around by herself Mom’s spirit endures but in reality she drifts further away with each passing season she is delicate and has difficulty remembering she echoes a distant past in the early evening of Thanksgiving Day they sit at table of elegant yet rather staid dining room of Mom’s choosing at Arizona Inn she says it reminds her of the way things used to be she wears tasteful black linen slacks black pumps thin silk knitted black turtleneck with string of pearls gold earrings her blonde hair coiffured in same fluffy sprayed style it has been for 50 years in his heart he knows a part of her wishes her son was more like Tom Steinberg who was a senior when Odysseus was a freshman at River Woods Academy The Steinbergs and Mom are still friendly Tom is a successful investment banker with a wife and child living in Winnetka Mom nervously touches the pearl strand around her neck she says you know Mort Rock’s wife Phyllis died i was such a good friend to her at her funeral they read how she said i was her best friend she left me 10 lousy thousand dollars in her will she’s worth millions it’s eating me up inside i needed that money desperately i can’t stop thinking about it 10 lousy thousand dollars went immediately to pay off loans i’m going to sell my jewelry i don’t know what i can get in the spring i’ll put the apartment up for sale or try to get a reverse mortgage from the bank i never told you kids before i’m not in good shape Odysseus comments i feel terrible i wish so much i could help maybe Phyllis Rock suspected you and her husband maybe all those years you were her best friend she read it as guilt and obligation Mom you need to be more truthful Mom cuts in i never had *** with Mort Rock that man drove me crazy he was nuts for me Mom orders the traditional turkey dinner Odysseus orders the Macadamia nut encrusted Hawaiian fish the waiter brings price fixed appetizers little circles of toasted bread with lightly browned melted cheese tiny triangular cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches roasted watercress nuts wrapped in bacon and little hot dogs pierced with fluffy ended toothpicks Mom begins to gobble as she remarks to Odysseus  why do you want to wear your hair like that? you look like you escaped from the camps Odysseus asks what camps are you referring to Mom? she replies the Concentration Camps! you’re a good-looking man and you still have a full head of hair why do you want to shave it off i don’t understand i think you should move back to Chicago Tucson has done nothing to offer look at you you’re all alone you don’t have any friends come home and be your old self again he answers my old self you don’t get it do you Mom do you remember my commodity trading debacle or my 40th birthday or you and aunt Rita’s ceaseless corrections Mom smugly retorts what do you mean your 40th birthday don’t you get smart with me you should be ashamed of yourself why must you keep bringing up the past you need to let go of the past you go into such details details i don’t remember what does it matter now it’s history we only wanted what we thought was best for you you never listened you were only interested in yourself plenty of other kids get beaten and come through just fine you don’t know what it’s like to be a parent it tears me up inside you talk like you had nothing to do with it i can’t take this abuse from you anymore her misshapen fingers hands begin trembling as her voice emotes you think i don’t realize we made mistakes with you you think we were such monsters i wasn’t a good mother i was a lousy ***** is that what you think answer me what are you a bump on a log Odysseus sits stiff in chair his voice shrinks he just sits there his legs shake under table Mom says your father was quick-tempered we were under so much financial pressure maybe we did send you away too soon if i had to do it again i’d do it differently what does it matter now it’s 50 years ago forget the past what do you want from me what can i do he listens silently wondering if Mom seeks some kind of redemption can her conceit permit it he knows he is ******* her he does not mean to be uncomfortable with his muteness Mom continues you were a difficult child remember all the trouble you caused look at you you’re still a difficult man he questions Mom can you hear yourself you think i’m difficult she answers you think we were such terrible parents you grew up in a house of violence his thumb and forefinger nervously touch his chin as he replies no you were good parents i was a problem child different from you you afforded me a beautiful home and brilliant education i wanted to investigate life and learn and grow you didn’t know what to do with a child like that as much as she tries Mom never has been a comfort for Odysseus or he for her he inadvertently stirs her to worry or snap and she in turn unthinkingly disturbs him nevertheless they love each other the waiter brings out salads Mom ordered iceberg lettuce with thousand island dressing Odysseus chose the spinach salad he takes several bites Mom remarks use your salad fork not your dinner fork you know better than that suddenly it occurs to him Mom is more fragile than he he thinks to himself silently Mom i realize your life is closing in on you your mind drifts and you need to fake and cover-up more than ever do you want me to come home and take care of you i will take care of you then he remembers how miserable they were together during his throat cancer recovery in her 3 bedroom Lake Shore Drive condominium immersed in contemplation he pushes the fork through spinach leafs Mom says sit up in the chair and put a smile on your face she self-consciously peeks around the room having lost his appetite Odysseus looks down at napkin on his lap glances at half-eaten salad bowl he gazes up at Mom the waiter arrives making a pained smile he clears the salads then serves the entrees after the waiter departs Mom speaks Odys look at me when i’m talking to you i think about a lot of things i should have done after the fact sometimes even years later Max and i made a lot of incorrect choices when it came to you he cuts in Mom you don’t have to say anymore i love you always have loved you and know you love me too Mom says you know how much i appreciate your paintings you’ve made my life richer i‘ve always been supportive of you in fact i’m your biggest fan right Odys right? thank you Mom i’m grateful Mom says i’ve spoken with psychiatrists and they all tell me the same answer tell your son to forget it why must you dwell in the past what did we do so dreadfully wrong i don’t understand you’re a hard case i wish i could get through to you i hope you can find it in your heart to forgive us you’ll sleep better he questions you know about my insomnia restless sleep nightmares Mom says i can imagine Odysseus’s eyes begin to water Mom i love you i wouldn’t be who i am without you Mom says don’t get so emotional you sound weak take it from me you must be strong in life learn discipline and willpower i love you too son Odysseus wonders if maybe he agitates Mom because he is a constant liability lacking fiscal self-reliance deep down Mom is a giggling gossiping playful girl spoiled by her father she never wanted to grow up and be burdened with the tasks of parenthood what woman of rare beauty and charm would want to give up her privilege and freedom for some kid especially a *******-up kid maybe deep down Mom resents Odysseus he stares down at the Macadamia nut encrusted Hawaiian fish and silently prays he will be released from his life all his stupid sins regrets self-pity self-hatred his vain inconsequential existence



i move organize empty shelves cabinets drawers closets edit wrap tape pack wonder if moving back to Chicago is one more mistake heaped on top of a 1000 mistakes a 1,000,000 mistakes is going home to help Mom my biggest mistake ever i simply know i must try to protect my Mom
RJ Dennett Feb 2015
To my son
I thankyou for being there
For holding my head up high
For showing me you care
Sorry you had to see me in my worst way
It was amazing how you said to me
"Dad dont believe what they say
Vultures love to feed on their prey
You need to stand up like me
Don't let them push you around
Keep your fears aside
Or they will kick you while your down
You don't need people like that around
They are cruel and mean
If you and I stick together
We will make a great team
So dont worry about what they say
And put their stupid words behind you
Look at me right here
Because I will always love you!"
Ann M Johnson Aug 2016
Life is a rollercoaster filled with many ups and downs.
Life is a rollercoaster it can sometimes be scary to be swept off the ground.
Life is a rollercoaster there are moments can sometimes be exciting.
Life is a rollercoaster there are moments where you get knocked off balance and feel sick.
Life is a rollercoaster sometimes all you can do is hang on for your dear life and scream.
Life is a rollercoaster sometimes you reach out for your dreams no matter unpractical they may seem.
Life is a rollercoaster filled with little loop de loops that spin you around and hurl you around in a different direction.
Life is a rollercoaster filled with chaotic moments that make us feel blue.
Life is a rollercoaster, I don't know about you but at times it seems for many the ride ends too quickly without enough time to say goodbye.
Life is a rollercoaster filled with heartache and moments that make us cry.
Life is a rollercoaster and it is best to just face it instead of trying to hide.
Life is a rollercoaster it is good to take a supportive hand as we round the next bend.
Life is a rollercoaster we have this moment today to try to live life to the fullest and remember that it is best enjoyed with our friends and family by our side.
Life is a rollercoaster I am grateful that I have this opportunity to ride this ride.
Life is a rollercoaster so I'll do my best to take bad moments in stride, and focus more on the good moments that are held within each new day if I just choose to look around.
I thought I would never laugh again,
I thought I would never smile again,
I've only realized that I needed time and space to think,
I needed time to know what I want
Even though I knew what I wanted.
I only got a time to find myself, 
I only got time to find who "Am I"

I'm glad that my heart is healing day by day,
Hour by hour,
I'm glad that my wounds are now healing.
Is it because I've found happiness?
I would say;
Every piece of happiness I have, 
Comes from my very own supportive friends I have,

The pain I was feeling before
It was preparing for my happiness,
It was preparing me for my destiny,
This pain was basically showing me that I can also do everything for myself.

I thought that I've failed in life,
Because I can't stand up for myself,
I thought that life has given up on me,
But then I realized that it was preparing me for another day.
Life has showed me that there are people I cannot trust,

So, I was lost because no one could help me,
I was lost to an extent where I've come to realize that no one wants to hear me,

I was lost but then I was found.
I was found by someone who can prepare me for tomorrow,
Someone who showed me the correct path,

Someone who allowed me to lean on her shoulder when times were hard,
I will never forget the day I've met the person who contributed much of her time on me,

The person who talked with me and made sure that I understand, 
And at the end of the day I feel better.

The person who contributed her time,
Her space and showed me that life has it's own ups and downs. 

Someone I've trusted with all my secrets and became true to me.
But the question is;

How does this become part of my happiness?

This became part of my happiness 
Because only one person became interested to hear about my pain,
Not only that but also to help me step by step.

I believe that I had to trust only one person,
"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."

Happiness has been all my heart was looking for,
It was what I always wanted.

I believe that for one to find happiness,
They need to accept themselves for who they are,
And begin to search for it different ways.

Here I am today,
I managed to find happiness,
I've managed to search for the seed to happiness. 

I think I needed happiness to find myself, 
But firstly I needed to forgive and let go,
I've managed to find the seed to happiness,
The seed to freedom, 
And the seed to find myself.

The most important thing is;
Find a seed that will grow the flowers of happiness to your life,
The flower that will unlock the seed of happiness...
Sofia Von Jul 2014
Cigarette smoke
Wheels no spokes
Board rollin down alleys
Late night skate
Let me escape
The life I never planned

Never on time
You best lower your expectations

Snortin molly in the bathroom
Chuggin ***** in the hall
I could be anywhere at all
But I’d still crawl
back to the clutches of dependence
I forfeited life's race in the first lap
Yet I'm still trapped
Coughing up blood
I strive for nothing

I don't want to feel
I long to be free
From society
Our culture has maxed out
So now everyone wants to shout
for help because what the world wants
Is unrealistic
We try to overdose
And become comatose
To drop all worries of material success
Those
Stacks on stacks on stacks
Racks on racks on racks
We forget
its just paper
Not what defines us

The rest is up to the people
To rise about the atmosphere
Of atoms and mold supportive molecules from the elements we're presented
Not corrected like a sent typo
To your mom
Or boss
Control
Is unattainable
Fathom the slack of a slacker
Loosen your ropes
And walk the plank
With no hopes of disaster nor triumph
Determined
To just be
I wouldn't say this is old but it's from a good set of months ago.
Carla Marie Feb 2012
When, how or where we are born
Matters in which we have no choice… and
Dying is something we do
All alone…
At the appointed time...

In the when and the why of the thing,
We may or may not
Have a voice

But it is these
Hard and Wonder-full
Seconds… Minutes… Hours… Days…
Between
The moment we’re born
And
The moment we die
This accumulation of lessons and experiences
Known as
Life

These are the moments
To make a difference!
To share smiles and tears
To halve our worries
To help shoulder our loads
To make lighter
The Moments of Strife

Don’t give me flowers
When I am dead
Give me my flowers
Now

And don’t be heart-broken
When I leave
If in your heart
When I arrive
There is no smile

Don’t “fall out” or swoon... or
Hug my casket and wail
Rent your clothes... and with ash,
Your head,
Anoint

Because
If you have the chance to be loving
Right now
But do not…

Could be supportive
Right now
But choose to not…

Beloved
You’re missing the point...

I’ve got nothing but love
And will love just as much
And for just as long
As allowed…

So don’t give me flowers when I am dead
Give me my flowers
Now
The neighborhood was silent. There wasn’t a soul around this eerie town and the sun hadn’t peaked out of the clouds for days. The darkness of the land had swallowed the smiles of the population and nature had ceased to show its existence. The birds must have migrated early. The wind disrupted the branches of every tree that was in front of the houses; it left only the whisper of its presence behind.
Shadow’s alarm clock blared at the appropriate time of eight in the morning and he grunted at its ignorance. His girlfriend, Jessie, didn’t seem to care too much about his morning laziness. He didn’t even bother turning off the alarm. He simply rolled on his opposing side to ignore it. That seemed to require a larger effort than if he’d just gotten out of bed. Jessie remained motionless and wasn’t snoring like she usually did. She wore a long sky blue nightgown to bed and it brought out the true color of her blondish hair. She was lying on her stomach and her hands were tucked underneath the fluffy pillow. Shadow just peered at her through the crack of his eye as the sound of the alarm clock withered away his patience. Shadow heard his three-legged basset hound, Tripod, hobble to the nightstand and he began to lick Shadow’s left foot that was hanging out of the white silky bed sheets. The saliva dripped towards the floor and the grossness of the dog’s actions still wasn’t enough to get Shadow’s dead *** out of bed. The dog realized it had no affect on him and left the room.
Shadow had just gotten fired from his job as a technical engineer at a no-name computer store. He put computers together with both new and used parts and resold them to the customers. When he told Jessie, she was not supportive at all. They didn’t speak all last night and Shadow couldn’t imagine how this morning was going to go- another “Yes, MOTHER” conversation. He always had a problem with his temper. All hell broke loose when shadow didn’t get his way, but you’d think he had been taught not to swear at his boss when he got angry. Well, on the contrary his mind and anger had gotten the best of him. Guess Shadow saw that there was no reason for him to get out of bed. But his three-legged dog seemed to think so. He kept ignoring Tripod for some time and he **** all over the rug as a result of it.
Shadow felt a discomfort among his genitals as he stumbled to his feet to go to the bathroom. He concocted his usual bowl of cereal once he reached the kitchen across the hall and slurped up every last drop of milk. He thought distressingly about what Jessie was going to bring on him this morning. The sounds of static and distorted voices echoed through the room from the television- he walked back into his bedroom to get dressed. Shadow called out for his dog.
The job wasn’t so good anyway. Shadow was displeased with his boss from the beginning but he knew he needed to receive the checks- the pay was so good. He always had a passion for building computers and when he first explored this field, Spot would sit and watch Shadow build. Spot was his first dog, around the time when he was a teenager. He would sit there until Shadow was done and that might’ve been what caused him to like building them so much- it was the memory.
Shadow continued to call for Tripod but there was no response. The aroma of the dog **** grew more and more noticeable. The doors were closed so there was no doubt he didn’t escape again. He ran all around the house, opening doors and calling outside for him; peaking behind the furniture and the clothes within his closets for him. He spotted the pile of dog **** on the living room floor.
“What are you doing, Shadow?” Jessie asked.
“I am looking for the **** dog. He **** on the rug again.”
“What are you talking about?” asked Jessie.
“OUR dog!??” said Shadow.
The air began to blow through the rooms of the house and the papers that were neatly stacked on Shadow’s desk began to fall to the floor. Jessie sat up in bed and the wind carried her hair across her scull and it made her look even more beautiful than ever. Her hazel-green eyes remained staring a Shadow with the same goofy look of concern but she still looked beautiful.
“I don’t know if I’m alright. My face hurts…” said Shadow.
“Shadow, I DID hit you pretty hard last night. Remember?” asked Jessie. “I threw that little book-end at you and it hit you in the cheek bone. I didn’t mean it, I AM sorry.”
“It’s fine, Jess. I was being a ****. But really, where’s the dog?”
“I don’t know, he’s you’re dog. Let me get dressed and I’ll help you look for him,” said Jessie.
The window shades were pulled up so the light could shine throughout the house but there wasn’t much light to affect anything. It was still dark and moody in the sky and the storm was still passing though the area. Shadow had to turn every light on in the house to see, even though it was ten in the morning. He knew he needed to find a job, but he wanted to find this dog. He ran around the house looking for every trace of dog fur. The sounds of Jessie getting dressed were coming from the closet.
“Could you hurry up and help me, honey? I need to find this mutt,” said Shadow.
Shadow had given Jessie a special license plate for her birthday last year. It said “Jessie” on it and it was very hard to get. He had to call months in advance to purchase that plate. It was now implanted on his silver Jetta. Shadow’s job was right down the street, so he just rode a bike to work every day and let Jessie use the Jetta.
The job Shadow had used to drive him crazy. He’d work for hours on fixing or building motherboards and if it didn’t work, he’d have to start over. He’d come home in the worst moods after a hard day’s work. He didn’t want dinner; he didn’t want to hear from anybody, though Jessie liked to talk. And that’s where Shadow got very aggravated. He began to yell at her because she asked him questions and he would kick over Tripod’s food and water and storm out of the house in a rage; leaving the front door open behind him. But Shadow didn’t leave last night. He wasn’t the one who stormed out in a rage because he was too tired for that. Jessie left with the dog and claimed she was going to stay at her mother’s for the evening. They must have come back in the house late last night. The dog must be here. Shadow and Jessie kept looking for Tripod while calling out his name to come in sight. Tripod finally walked through the door form the back yard and barked a weak screeching bark.
“It’s about time, Podders! It’s about time we accomplished that dilemma” said Shadow as he looked up at Jessie and back at Tripod.
“What the ****?!” he said. The dog had blood all around his gumball nose and his droopy lips and walked away from them into the bedroom.
“I give up,” said Jessie. “You gotta clean that dog up because I am not going to go near that Blood; I already cleaned up the dog ****. What has he been through?”
“I don’t know…” answered Shadow.

In the mean time, I’m going to go shopping for some new shoes,” Jessie. “I’ll be back later this afternoon, alright?”
Shadow sat on his favorite recliner chair in the living room. She kissed his forehead, grabbed her keys and walked out the front door.
There was silence. He was alone.
Shadow immediately got up and opened the front door to grab the daily town newspaper from the steps. He noticed that the Jetta had already left the driveway and wondered why Jessie must have been in such a hurry. He looked down the gloomy dark street and saw no sign of life. He closed the front door, locked it, and sat back down on his recliner. He unfolded the newspaper and wiggled his toes to the melody of his improvisational hum.
The hum suddenly came to a halt. The toes stopped wiggling. Shadow didn’t seem to breathe. He read the front page of the news paper and couldn’t believe his eyes. There was a Jetta- or maybe it wasn’t because it didn’t look like one. Maybe that was the point. There was no hood; there was no front seat. There were two photos: one of the car and one of the whole accident. A Tractor trailer was involved and no one in the Jetta made it. Shadow started to breathe slightly again and came to his senses; tried to collect himself. He saw the license plate and couldn’t believe his eyes.
There was silence. He was alone. He was alone the whole time.
© Christopher Rossi, 2010
Abby Jan 2014
If I could go back there,
to that day in first grade when I yanked my project (on bridges, yellow cover decorated in crayon) too fast from Allison's hands and her fingers blistered on the staples,
I would be standing there,
next to Miss A as she lined up the class,
ready with a band aid and a hug and I would say, "Be more careful next time, alright?" and Allison and I would get yelled at for skipping in the hallway to art class,
the moment of shock dissipating from my mind like so many accidents of the year.

If I could go back there,
to that night in April of eighth grade where I learned what true poetry was,
I would be there at ten twenty-four,
and I would wake the dead to keep myself from typing those fateful lines if I had to,
and I would save myself from skewing the feather-light foundation of our group of five
that later was heaped with bricks at odd angles
which came tumbling down.

If I could go back there,
to the last Monday before 9th grade began (whether it was Monday morning or Monday night I forget),
I would give myself a Mountain Dew and say, "He's fine, but go for her,"
and then as I ran down the b
to the day in fifth grade when I realized no one was laughing with me,
the day that I realized I was an outcast, and that "being different" wasn't good,
I would be waiting with my pink-haired baby sitter as I stepped off the school bus,
a Lilly Quench book in hand and a mug of hot chocolate (even though it was March) in the other,
and I would pull from my pocket the same necklace I was wearing,
a wire-wrapped amethyst on a crumby silvery chain
that was the first of many,
and there would be acceptance in the house that night.

If I could go back there,
to the moment I learned about eating disorders in health class from an over weight gym teacher who couldn't care less about the students,
I would bump the kid next to me from his seat (let him whine, he's a ****) and sit down,
a plate of chocolate cake and a spoon to eat it with making a mess of the plastic desk,
and maybe I would realize that I was already skinny enough.

If I could go back there,
to those nights when I learned the true power of words,
to the moment I skewed the foundations of a solid friendship of five,
I'd shout and scream and wake the dead to stop myself typing those fateful lines,
heaping bricks upon bricks to collapse my only bonds,
and I would give myself a mug of Theraflu to knock me out,
and whisper in my ear as I nodded off, "Stop being so **** impulsive."

If I could go back there,
to the last Monday before 9th grade started (whether it was the Monday morning or Monday night I never recall),
to the night where I should have closed my laptop for good when Joanne signed off but instead I reopened it at 12:17,
I would give myself a bottle of water and tell myself, "He's fine, but go anyway"
because it meant the world to Allison that I do so,
and as I ran out of the house in the opposite direction of our suicidal friend to meet up with her,
I would head toward's his house and tell him we were coming so he could be awake and his dad asleep when we showed up at the door at 2:23.

If I could go back there,
to March 19, 2012,
when I learned about life from Death himself,
when I learned that some things are worth living for and that isolationism doesn't work but it will have to work for me,
I would stand there at the foot of my bed,
freezing cold because I refused to turn on the heat,
I would hold my hand and be supportive because now I know that no one else will be,
that no one can be there for everyone always,
and I would stay with me for the months to come and relive the hellish months to come because no one should have to hold the world up alone,
knowing that they can't even maintain a grip on themselves.

If I could go back there,
I would save myself.
Rewind this memoir back to my first foster home.   I’m reclining on the couch in the living room watching Superman, a whatever's-on-tv-saturday-afternoon-movie.   "Give A Little Bit" played from the soundtrack.  The Supertramp song reached out from the screen and into my own complicated teen-aged life.  Oh the words of that song blindsided me, hit me hard in the chest with a sad yearning, an emotion I had ignored forever like that elephant in the room too big to push out the door.  Because life was so hard, too hard, and lonely on and on, and the world gives only just enough that you keep breathing, but you wonder why.  Yes, please  someone  give just a little....
But at the time I hadn't known anything else and I just stuffed that overwhelming sad lonely feeling.  Too much need wears out a welcome in someone else's home.  It seemed most everyone else had family, security, some money for perhaps things like a pair of cleats to run in school track if you have the desire. Its called belonging or opportunity and I was acutely aware I wouldn't have it.

Fast forward 25 years; business for my glass art studio is rewarding.  I live in Cleveland, or what I called Purgatory.  I like the city though; I think the motto should be "Its Not That Bad."  A tough steel town, unpretentious to a fault, tenacious, it inspired the Clean Water Act because the river was so polluted it   caught   on   fire.  People who live there just don't quit, except that the biggest export is young people. The streets are eerily empty, the quiet steel mills are epic sculptures of rust.  But its not that bad.  Now they make a tasty beer called Burning River.  Sometimes they gamble on unconventional ideas because they've reached the end of status-quo.  One can even surf there, when the wind blows a Nor'easter in the fall, just before the lake freezes. The wave break is nicknamed "Sewer Pipe"; one can imagine why.

I biked with a club there; cycling part of my life-blood.  Life was pretty good, blessed with measures of contentment and happiness and family, even through so many challenges.  Except I'm stuck pedaling a trainer in the basement most of the long winter.  It was during an endless, gray February that I was inspired by an idea: a Velodrome.  Its one of those banked tracks people in America only see during the Olympics.  Cover it, and people could have a bicycle park all year-round with palm trees in the winter, in Cleveland.  Its a blast of a sport with serious American heritage.  A velodrome is a place where all a kid has to do is show up and with enough heart he or she can make it to the Olympics.  They wouldn't need money, just 100% heart.  It would be the kind of opportunity I didn't have when I was a kid.

So I decided to take on the responsibility to build one... not to be afraid of the price tag, or how to do it, or let a label like "disabled veteran with a head injury" daunt me.  I figured my role was to get the project started and motivate others to do other parts.  I decided not to discuss my shortcomings, introduce myself with that label, or use it as a disclaimer.   As many times as I wished I had a chalkboard sign around my neck saying, Please excuse the mess, I had to tell myself it was not an excuse.
There would need to be many others; but the fact that I knew only a dozen people on the planet didn't stop me either.  Two people inspired me.  Kyle MacDonald had a dream to barter a paper clip for something better, trading that for something else, anything else, until he had a house.  I thought I could start with an old laptop, a couple thousand dollars, and my idea. I'd work to leverage each bit of progress, not knowing what they were yet.  Thats how anything gets done, right?  Erik Weihenmayer is a blind alpine mountain climber, conquering even Everest.  He didn’t let anyone convince him what he couldn’t do, and didn’t let impairments keep him from his goal.  He didn't let blindness, the fact that he couldn't see the top as well as others, make the goal any less enjoyable for himself.  Also, there’s no way he could have done it without help.

There are no business plans for a Velodrome or someone else would have built more of them already.  I'm good at figuring things out, what with having to relearn things all the time.  I don't quit because that has never seemed to be an option.  Resourcefulness is my middle name, having to put my life back together every year or so.  Certainly the project was eccentric but as an artist I've never really cared about what others thought.  I certainly didn't have a reputation for sanity to maintain.  Professionally, I’ve had experience with so many factors of development: from paperwork at the back end as a Project Assistant, to designing it as a Mechanical Drafter, to constructing it as a Steel Detailer.  I understood this project.

Every time I discovered something needed to be done, I'd figure out how to do it.  I took an online tutorial and put together a website, attended communication seminars for better speaking skills, learned how to recruit a Board of Directors, took classes for fundraising, won a few grants, and started a non-profit.  I had to buy a couple of suits for meetings.  I kept hoping someone who knew what they were doing would take over, but that never seemed to materialize.  What I thought would be a few months turned into several hard years of work, learning new things on the fly like politics, business etiquette, computer programs, how to understand and write financials and business plans for stadiums.

It felt like cramming for finals, taking exams for classes I never attended.  I didn’t just burn my candle on both ends, I was torching it in the middle too.  Every challenge I had ever gone through seemed like it was a preparation for this one.  Many times I wondered if it was all for nothing; so many dead ends and frustrations and years where the project was barely on life-support.  Mistakes and wrong turns making people mad, losing faith in me.  Would it ever really happen?  I kept imagining what my bike wheels would look like under my handlebars as if I was ridiing on the track, listening to the same particular songs on my ipod for motivation.

A small tangent here, a digression back to the fifth grade and my favorite teacher.  He was about as tall as his students.  Mr.A (our nickname for Mr. Anderson) was a barrel-chested little person but I didn't notice it till years later because he was so cool.  He was the first teacher, the first person actually, who encouraged me to be myself.  I was a little kid, a couple years advanced and bright enough to be skipped again.  Tthat would have been ridiculous since I was already too small.  I would get my work done early in class, and he would let me spend time doing whatever, encouraging my creativity.  I distinctly remember making little scale models of parks out of construction paper.  I would start by making a rectangular tray, and then fill it in with ponds, benches, and oval or figure-8 tracks for bicycles, elevated roller-coaster paths for walking.  It was my way of creating a whimsical place that felt good in my difficult life.  No lie, I was building bicycle tracks when I was 9.  That memory faded away until I was several years into the actual Velodrome project, trying create a light-hearted park on the edge of a ghetto.  This was my life's ultimate Art Project; made with wood, steel, and tenacity.  It made me wonder about a life's purpose... still just a what if... but cruel if there wasn't anything to it.

There is a necessary role for the dreamer.  Visionaries help to break status quo, introduce new solutions.  Sorting through the banal with unique perspective, the random is reassembled into intriguing newness.  What is creative nature?  Is it obsession to improve things, the need for approval, resourcefulness within limits, or perspective outside boundaries?   Is it tenacity to the point of obsession, focus to the point of selfishness?  

Thankfully, a few devoted people did take over after a few years and worked hard to raise the serious money.  In 2012, Phase 1 of the Cleveland Velodrome opened to the public.  Presently they are raising funds for Phase 2 to cover it.   By chance I was there the day the track was finished and got a chance to ride it.  All I wanted to do was one thing: listen to those songs on my ipod and see my wheels under the handlebars on the track... in reality.  I didn't want to race or be recognized at some celebration.  I just wanted to ride a few laps, happy just to have a role in building it.  In less than a year there are already training programs, youth cycling classes, and teams competing.  Through community grants and volunteers, its all free to anyone under 18.  

Not to be forgotten, some thanks should go to one supportive teacher who helped a scrappy kid dream.    Schools measure math and science so valuable, for good reason.  But this favors one brain’s side of thinking.  Initiating and working for the construction of an urban renewal project and improving a neighborhood is traceable to the exact same idea assembled with clumsy school scissors, white glue, and construction paper, during 5th grade free time.

I can't wait to hear the news of some tough kid from East Cleveland getting to the Olympics.
Aaron Mar 2013
a circling vortex of disarray
starts inside my head
clasped by unsure
yet supportive hands
the helpless recesses of which
lets the sycophantic white light of my desktop monitor
summoned upon a wretched click
scatter on this scattered face
forming a weak shield
amalgamated by the desolation
and imbecility of a roadside orphan
ignorant but lasting
on the crumbs left over
from a stranger's life

a familiar unsettling sound
cracks open this pale shield
and my brooding eyes open
to see her making contact
one instant
one magical instant,
and die the next
leaving my impressioned eyes
wanting more
i lie, lie to myself
when the truth is
there woud be no more
of her tonight

retreating never meant giving up
and i do retreat,
to escape the insanity
of her charm get to me
amidst real affection
to run away while wanting to look back
when an embrace is just outside my door
desperately wanting to hear that unsettling sound
which drowns the familiar sounds of laughter

the circling vortex now inherent
inside my head
clasped by my helpless
supportive hands
the helpless recesses of which
lets the servile white light of a numb monitor
trace my tears

oh how I weep
to be her onscreen ******.
Korey Rager Mar 2015
S-Smart
A-Angelic
M-Merry
M-Marvelous
Y-Youthful

A-Adorable
N- Nice
N-Nerdy

F-Fascinating
A-Adventurous
I-Impressive
R-Rare
B-B­eautiful
A-Affectionate
N-Necessary
K-Kind
S-Supportive
sapthepoet Aug 2013
My family, the media, society
And growing up in the ghettos of California
Trained to believe that if you’re man,
Especially if you’re a dark skinned black man
That you can’t cry, or feel hurt by anything
Because we men have no: heart, emotions, a soul,
No brain or anything painful that should be talked about

And if you decided to go against the taboo then you’re:
Gay, stupid, sensitive they say’s you are a female/*****
I spent many years conforming to this unrealistic law
That I know not to shed a tear unless s I’m alone
Or my struggles are so overwhelming that
I don’t have the strength to fight any longer
Without getting some baggage off my chest

But ***** it life is too short to act like Pinocchio
And I’m a ******* real boy ******
So I’m grabbing a red can of gasoline,
And brown blow torch
And I’m burning this fictional script
And rewriting a story with some supportive guidelines

I cry when I talk/pray to God
I cry when I laugh too much or when I’m happy
I cry when someone that I care about dies
Or if they’re in pain and the situation is out of my control
I cry when I see a father & son on TV
Or in real life bonding with each other
I cry when I watch the seen from the movie ghost
When Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore are embraced
Between each other while they’re trying mold potter
On a spinning wheel and it falls down because they start kissing
That **** was both **** and romantic at the same time

I cry because it helps me: stay out of prison/jail,
I live longer; it teaches me that it’s ok to be a tough guy
And be vulnerable at the same time,
But most of all it gives me the strength to stay away
From relationships where I’m being abused
Or I’m abusing the other person

It’s the country of freedom of speech
Some homosexual male, bisexual
Or lesbian can get married
Men and women can choose to change
Their *** to what makes them feel good
Don’t tell me live and let live
When the rich can steal from
The poor & middle class
And make it legal under
The guidelines of capitalism
We can have a black president

So don’t tell me that this is the land of the free
But a man can’t express his feelings
Don’t patronize me into believing that the world has more:
Love, power, respect, happiness than God does for us  
Because that’s some hypocritical, double standard *******
I’m not just talking about me or minorities
And I’m not limiting it to what *** you’re
I’m speaking for what is right compared to what we are told
It needs to change because it’s not helping anybody.

Written By Shannon Pollard
©August 2013
Chidera Abaratu Aug 2017
They called them selves friends
not just friends but very good friends
but truely they were disconnected
and this was very impossible
to on lookers because they
saw them as friends who
were so close and connected

But they knew as friends
that they were far apart from
each other just like parallel lines
tht would never meet

In a friendship where both
were meant to be active
and supportive so that
their friendship would grow
and blossom for all to see
and for all to admire

It was only one person
that was doing the work
it was only one person that
was being active and
supporting the friendship

Ony one person felt hurt
only one person had to apologize
even though he did nothing wrong
making her seem good and
making him seem bad to on lookers

With time the friendship
stopped growing as it used to  
because it was only one person
who felt the need for the friendhip
while the other felt that the frienship
was useless so there was no need trying
and this made the friendship turn out
into being a one sided and an unappreciated friendship
What caused you to write a book and have it published?
Thankfully, I’ve enjoyed a career in IT (Information technology) for over 25+ years. However, I’ve been downsized out of a job four times – the last time in 2005, I was unemployed for nine months. During that time, I looked at over 19,000+ companies to find one job. With more jobs in my field being outsourced to lower wage earners overseas, I decided I needed an exit strategy from the corporate world to launch a more stable career and income.


2. How long have you been writing?
I started officially writing poetry in January 2001; it was a natural progression from working on my website. I started my website (Bunganut Lake Online) back in 1999; as I added content over the years, I started writing short stories about fishing, followed by haikus about fishing and Nature; then I started writing senryus about traffic (see honku.org) and later about God.


3. How long did it take to finish your book?
I spent about 13 months to write the manuscript of my current book; once I initiated the book making process with my publisher (BookSurge), I had the final product in hand in 3.5 months.


4. What is the name of your book and what is it about?
The name of my book is “Reaching Towards His Unbounded Glory”; the ISBN numbers are: 1-4196-5051-3 & 978-1419650512. It is a book of poetry, geared to inspire people to develop or strengthen a relationship with God.


5. Do you want to write more books and have them published?
Definitely; I have four completed and unpublished manuscripts; in addition, I have five other manuscripts started. All of these writings are poetry.


6. Who or What was your inspiration when writing your book?
Jehovah is my inspiration; He’s always been my Source, Redeemer and strength; most of my life, I’ve blessed to attended Church and receive Salvation in my youth.


7. What is your favorite author and book?
After the Bible (KJV), my favorite book is: How to Rule the World: a Handbook for the Aspiring Dictator by Andre De Guillaume. (It’s a humorous look at people and their desire for power.) Most of my reading is technical stuff from sources such as PC Magazine, so I don’t have a favorite author (in the traditional sense). There are number of poetry writers that I do enjoy [who are too numerous to mention, such as PDK (AllPoetry) and Gershon Hepner (Poem Hunter)].


8. What is the best thing about writing?
The best aspect of writing is the freedom of expression and the power to choose words, conveying ideas and concepts that bolster one’s imagination.


9. What are some of your other hobbies?
I love spending time at the lake in Maine where I own a summer property – activities include swimming, fishing, campfires and working on my website; I also enjoy board games, such as backgammon, scrabble and others, as well as computer games (ranging from pinball to Wolfenstein).


10. What caused you to use BookSurge?
I looked at a number of publishers and was disappointed at their offerings and reputations. For me, BookSurge was chosen because they are owned by Amazon.com; in addition, they provided all services required for the bookmaking process. Although I spent a fair amount of money, to me it’s worth it. For now I’m tapped into a global economy with a quality product. No one wants to spend their hard-earned money on an inferior product – so I did what was best for me.


11. What would you tell others that wanted to become an author as well? What steps would they need to take to get started?
Now that I’m published, I find myself more than willing to share my experiences. The first step is to have a notebook or clipboard to store and write down thoughts and ideas. Second, one must identify what one has passion about; one’s writing must come across as sincere and knowledgeable; third is to produce the manuscript; once the manuscript is complete, then start the bookmaking process that is most affordable. Once the book is published, the real work (and reality) of selling comes into focus.


12. How does your family feel about you being an author?
Some family members are very proud and supportive, while others are still mute on the subject.


13. Do you have a website to promote your book?
My marketing plan employs the use of multiple websites; I’ve posted my writing on a number of poetry websites, such as AllPoetry, Poetry With Meaning, Poem Hunter and others; in addition, I have created a “lens” on Squidoo.com. At some, point, I’ll advertise on my own website. In the future, I would like to develop a personal website geared towards marketing my books.


14. Can people buy an autographed copy of your book if they wish to? If so how would they go about doing that?
Yes, people can purchased autographed copies; the best approach is via my “lens” on Squidoo.com; the link is: http://www.squidoo.com/book-isbn-1419650513/


15. Do you think in the near future that you may write and publish more books?
Yes, I am planning to publish more books of poetry.


16. Is it hard work being an author?
That depends on the goals one sets for himself; for example, if one’s desire is to earn a comfortable living from one’s writing, then yes it’s difficult. With the presence of the Internet and related technologies, it’s very easy to be published, but no guarantee to make money.


17. What are your dreams and Goals in life?
The ultimate goal is to become the Christian man as seen by God Himself; after that, I would like to assist others to publish their own books, continue work on my website and develop my own business software for the marina operator.


18. Could you tell us a little about your book and what caused you to want to write it?
My book is a personal expression of faith; The Word tells that we are “more than conquerors”; in a sense, I achieved that ideal since my humble book is “now available worldwide”.


19. Is your book non-fiction or fiction?
I would classify my poetry as non-fiction. To me, a relationship with Christ and having faith is real.


20. Could you tell use where we could get a copy of your book? What bookstores are carrying it and what online stores are carrying it?
None of the brick & mortar bookstores are carrying my title as yet. My book can be purchased via Amazon.com, Borders.com or from me directly via the Squidoo.com “lens” at: http://www.squidoo.com/book-isbn-1419650513/


21. What kind of promotional tools do you use to advertise your book?
I am using several promotional tools; my work has been submitted to two book contests; it is part of the Beijing International Book Fair (in China); I use the Internet and have set-up consignment arrangements with several businesses. I also have printed marketing materials, such as business cards, postcards and bookmarks.
nabi 나비 Jan 2017
Warning* This is not a poem, by any stretch of the means, if you don't want to read a story then skip over this.  If you are against any part of the LGBT+ community, skip over this!! If you would like to read this then keep on reading and thank you very much

       Coming out is terrifying.  Figuring yourself out in the first place is absolutely scary, but then telling everyone what you've figured out is even scarier.  Here is my story.
      My story starts in the 4th grade.  I remember I would be at choir concerts and I would be in the audience watching with my family, and I would be staring at the girls.  Because they had such pretty dresses, and gorgeous makeup, and long flawless hair. And I would pay no attention to the boys, because the boys aren't pretty like the girls are, they aren't pretty at all to me.  Then suddenly I noticed that, and then I remembered all the girls in my class talking about how cute Johnnie is and I sort of connected that I thought Sally was a lot cuter than Johnnie or any other boy in my class was.  
      Then I remember going home and sitting in my room and being determined to figure this out, because this is weird.  I've never heard of a girl liking a girl! That happens?!?! If this is real then why haven't Mom or Dad said anything?  So I sat down in my room and I got a black, blue, and pink marker and a piece of paper.  On one side of the paper I drew a boy in blue and on the other I drew a girl in pink.  In the middle I put the word or.  But I didn't know which side to circle, so I folded up the paper and hid in between my closet door because it was open but you could put stuff in between the doors without anyone seeing it. In a month I found the paper again, and this time I knew which one I was attracted to.  So I grab my black marker and I circle the girl.  
      I don't really remember how much longer after the paper incident that this next event happened, but I know it was 4th-5th grade somewhere in there.  I had my best friend over, I think it was for a sleepover. We're gonna call her Ally. But I remember me and Ally were just hangin out in my room.  I look over at Ally and say 'Hey, Ally I gotta tell you something' and she's waiting for me to respond.  So I say 'I think I like girls.' That's all I say, nothing more.  Ally goes off repeating that it's wrong and that it's not right and that I have to like boys otherwise something is wrong with me, and is just going on and on when I just jump up and say 'JUST KIDDING, it was just a joke calm down'.  Then we just laugh it off and then she makes the comment 'if you did like girls i'd be okay with it, but i wouldn't be as close to you because i'm a girl too'. That really hurt me, which caused me to internalize all of my questioning thoughts and try my hardest to forget about them.
        Now it is middle school, during middle school I dated 3 boys.  We are going to call them Jona, Chris, and Lucas. I dated Jona for 15 months and our "relationship" was more like a friendship with fancier terms.  I'm buddies with Jona now so it's all good.  Chris didn't last long so that doesn't really matter.  Lucas!!!! I dated Lucas for 6 months and during this time I realized that I really was attracted to girls and I couldn't keep hiding it.  I realized this because Lucas was my first kiss and I was not into it AT ALL!!! I just wasn't, I tried i really did.  But I just was never much into the dude thing! Nothing against him at all, he's a really sweet guy and I'm really close friends with him now. But after I had my first kiss, I pretty much was like girls are real pretty and the dudes im just not into that.  So I sorta just slowly stopped talking to Lucas, and I ended breaking up with him.
       But I was scared of being judged for being completely lesbian, so i came out as a pansexual because i thought people would be more accepting.  So I came out to my sister first, I have 2 sisters and i came out to the one that is a year younger than me ,Izzy. Izzy was in the living room one night and i walked out there and i said 'Izzy, you'll love me no matter what, right?' she replied yes and just asked me what was wrong repeatedly.  Then I was like I was thinking and just needed some reminder.  Then she followed me to my room and harassed me for an explanation.  Then I came out and said 'Izzy, im pansexual.'  Then I explained what it was and the first thing she said was '***, NOW I HAVE A GBF!!!'.  I felt so much better after that and i was just so relieved.  After that i came out to my Mom, friends, and my other sister.        
After 3 months, I revealed to my mom that i was still confused because I leaned more towards females and that at that moment i was just using pan as a label but if it changed to not be surprised.
        Around a week after that I gained the courage to come out to my Dad.  I honestly don't know why I was so scared to come out to him, but I was and he was around the last one to learn.  So I walked into my parents room and was just talking to Dad, I had my mom stay in the room just to lessen my anxiety about all of this.  Then I brought up the topic of the LGBT+ community, dad and i talked about it for awhile.  Then i said 'dad, i mentioned gays because i like girls'.  then my dad went on a list of analogies but in the end he was okay with it.  Actually my dad was the most supportive about it right after i told him he was so okay with it and it made me so happy.  Although my dad was upset because i was scared to tell him.  After I came out to him, I pretty much just admitted to being a full blown lesbian, and it was all great and dandy and everyone was happy.
       Then it was time to go back to school, but this year was the year I started high school.  So I was a freshman who had just come out as a lesbian to all my friends and family over summer.  So not many people knew that I was gay.  But then I become friends with this girl, I really liked her.  I was at a friends party and she was invited and after that party I couldn't get her off my mind.  (I know this seems like it's going off track but it will connect soon) I figured out that we have a class together and we started talking.  
        At the party I mentioned the whole being gay thing and she was okay and very aware of it, and one day she went to my locker after school.  She had been doing that a lot and gave me hugs to say bye and stuff but i completely overlooked it because i don't know what flirting is. She was at my locker and i decided to put my big girl pants on and ask if she liked girls.  She responded with i'm pretty much cool with anything (pansexual). Then she asked me to the dance, I obviously said yes and wigged out when she walked away and immediately texted my best friend in florida (Ally).(Oh BTW I came out to her over summer over skype and she's completely chill with it now, we are still best friends and she doesn't mind at all) So we went to the dance and she asked me out.  I said yes, wigged out some more, and then danced some more with my friends while she talked to hers for a few minutes.  Fast forward to the few weeks after the dance.  We had been walking down the halls and hugging so everyone figured it out.
         That's where we are today.  I am still dating the girl, i've met her family and she has very nice parents.  All my friends know that I am lesbian, and they completely accept me.  My family knows, but when I say family I mean my household family.  My grandma and great-aunt know, but besides that no one else does but I don't really need them too so it's all good.  But I am so much happier than I have been in a long time.  Yes, relationships are so frickin stressful especially if it is one with the same *** and you've never had one of them before.  So if you are in your first relationship with a girl, take it slow.  But if anyone is in the mindset of coming out, first make sure that it is safe for you too before you do it.  If it's not safe you can't, be safe about it no matter what.  You'll be able to be open about it one day, but make sure you are in a safe environment.  But if it is, yes coming out is the most stressful time ever! But in the end it is the most rewarding thing, to be able to openly say I'm insert your label(s). It's an amazing feeling, yes you might lose some people on the way but if they won't accept you for the real you then don't even deserve you.  So my final thing it, you are an amazing human, and if you come out you are the strongest being and you have earned my utmost respect. If you haven't, you've earned my utmost respect because it's heart wrenching and I've been there, but you will be able to bloom one day my little flower.
For the sake of privacy of anyone who may know me reading this, I've changed all the names.
Simpleton Aug 2018
Hour by hour
She checks her Insta
Posts a new picture
With a Snapchat filter
If it doesn't receive any compliments
It's not good enough
Every morsel is captured
For her followers
Praised by the likes
And screenshots
Wouldn't be seen dead
Without her makeup
Clothing
It's got to be designer
Membership at the gym
To show off her trainers
Trails through pages
Like a maniac
Can't help but compare
And want what she's got
Her house is big
Her boyfriend is handsome
Her friends are cool
Her family supportive
She needs a new car
The latest Apple product
A holiday
To an exotic location
The trolls are cruel
She can't be seen with you
Her lips too thin
Her nose too big
Searching for surgeries to fix the double chin
Without the screen
Her life is meaningless
She's addicted to social media
Depressed and anxious
Jealous and bitter
She's too deep under water
To see you trying to save her
Nigel Morgan Aug 2013
It’s nearly two in the morning and the place is finally quiet. I can’t do early mornings like I reckon he does. Even a half-past nine start is difficult for me. So it has be this way round. I called Mum tonight and she was her wonderful, always supportive self, but I hear through the ‘you’ve done so well to get on this course’ stuff and imagine her at her desk working late with a pile of papers waiting to be considered for Chemistry Now, the journal she edits. I love her study and one day I shall have one myself, but with a piano and scores and recordings on floor to ceiling shelves . . . and poetry and art books. I have to have these he said when, as my tutorial came to a close, he apologised for not being able to lend me a book of poems he’d thought of. He had so many books and scores piled on the floor, his bed and on his table. He must have filled his car with them. And we talked about the necessity of reading and how words can form music. Pilar, she’s from Tel Haviv, was with me and I could tell she questioned this poetry business – he won’t meet with any of us on our own, all this fall out from the Michel Brewer business I suppose.

This idea that music is a poetic art seems exactly right to me. Nobody had ever pointed this out before. He said, ask yourself what books and scores would be on the shelves of a composer you love. Go on, choose a composer and imagine. Another fruitless exercise, whispered Pilar, who has been my shadow all week. I thought of Messiaen whose music has finally got to me – it was hearing that piece La Columbe. He asked Joanna MacGregor to play it for us. I was knocked sideways by this music, and what’s more it’s been there in my head ever since. I just wanted to get my hands on it. Those final two chords . . . So, thinking of Messiaen’s library I thought of the titles of his music that I’d come across. Field Guides to birds of course, lots of theology, Shakespeare (his father translated the Bard), the poetry and plays of the symbolists (I learnt this week that he’d been given the score of Debussy’s Pelleas and Melisande for his twelfth birthday) . . . Yes, that library thing was a good exercise, a mind-expanding exercise. When I think of my books and the scores I own I’m ashamed . . . the last book I read? I tried to read something edifying on my Kindle on the train down, but gave up and read Will Self instead. I don’t know when I last read a score other than my own.

I discovered he was a poet. There’s an eBook collection mentioned on his website. Words for Music. Rather sweet to have a relative (wife / sister?)  as a collaborator. I downloaded it from Amazon and thought her poems were very straight and to the point. No mystery or abstraction, just plain words that sounded well together. His poetry mind you was a little different. Softer, gentler like he is.  In class he doesn’t say much, but if you question him on his own you inevitably get more than the answer you expect.  

There was this poem he’d set for chamber choir. It reads like captions for a series of photographs. It’s about a landscape, a walk in a winter landscape, a kind of secular stations of the cross, and it seems so very intimate, specially the last stanza.

Having climbed over
The plantation wall
Your freckled face
Pale with the touch
Of cold fingers
In the damp silence
Listening to each other breathe
The mist returns


He’s living in one of the estate houses, the last one in a row of six. It’s empty but for one bedroom which he’s turned into a study. I suppose he uses the kitchen and there’s probably a bedroom where he keeps his cases and clothes. In his study there is just a bed, a large table with a portable drawing board, a chair, a radio/CD, his guitar and there’s a notice board. He got out a couple of folding chairs for Pilar and I and pulled them up to the table.

Pilar said later his table and notice board were like a map of himself. It contained all these things that speak about who he is, this composer who is not in the textbooks and you can’t buy on CD. He didn’t give us the 4-page CV we got from our previous tutor. There was his blue, spiral-bound notebook, with its daily chord, a bunch of letters, books of course, pens and pencils, sheets of graph and manuscript paper filled with writing and drawings and music in different inks. There was a CD of the Hindemith Viola Sonatas and a box set of George Benjamin’s latest opera and some miniature scores – mostly Bach. A small vase of flowers was perilously placed at a corner . . . and pinned to his notice board, a blue origami bird.

But it was the photographs that fascinated me, some in small frames, others on his notice board, the board resting on the table and against the wall. There were black and white photos of small children, a mix of boys and girls, colour shots of seascapes and landscapes, a curious group of what appeared to be marks in the sand. There was a tiny white-washed cottage, and several of the same young woman. She is quite compelling to look at. She wears glasses, has very curly hair and a nice figure. She looks quiet and gentle too. In one photo she’s standing on a pebbly beach in a dress and black footless tights – I have a feeling it’s Aldeburgh. There’s a portrait too, a very close-up. She’s wearing a blue scarf round her hair. She has freckles, so then I knew she was probably the person in the poem . . .

I’ve thought of Joel a little this week, usually when I finally get to bed.  I shut my eyes and think of him kissing me after we’d been out to lunch before he left for Canada. We’d experimented a little, being intimate that is, but for me I’m not ready for all that just now; nice to be close to someone though, someone who struggles with being in a group as I do. I prefer the company of one, and for here Pilar will do, although she’s keen on the Norwegian, Jesper.

Today it was all about Pitch. To our surprise the session started with a really tough analysis of a duo by Elliott Carter, who taught here in the 1960s. He had brought all these sketches, from the Paul Sacher Archive, pages of them, all these rows and abstracts and workings out, then different attempts to write to the same section. You know, I’d never seen a composer’s workings out before. My teacher at uni had no time for what she called the value of process (what he calls poiesis). It was the finished piece that mattered, how you got there was irrelevant and entirely your business and no one else’s. So I had plenty of criticism but no help with process. It seems like this pre-composition, the preparing to compose is just so necessary, so important. Music is not, he said, radio in the head. You can’t just turn it on at will. You have to go out and find it, detect it, piece it together. It’s there, and you’ll know it when you find it.

So it’s really difficult now sitting here with the beginnings of a composition in front of me not to think about what was revealed today, and want to try it myself. And here was a composer who was willing to share what he did, what he knew others did, and was able to show us how it mattered. Those sheets on his desk – I realise now they were his pre-composition, part of the process, this building up of knowledge about the music you were going to write, only you had to find it first.

The analysis he put together of Carter’s Fantasy Duo was like nothing I’d experienced before because it was not sitting back and taking it, it was doing it. It became ours, and if you weren’t on your toes you’d look such a fool. Everything was done at breakneck speed. We had to sing all the material as it appeared on the board. He got us to pre-empt Carter’s own workings, speculate on how a passage might be formed. I realised that a piece could just go so many different ways, and Carter would, almost by a process of elimination choose one, stick to it, and then, as the process moved on, reject it! Then, the guys from the Composers Ensemble played it, and because we’d been so involved for nearly an hour in all this pre-composition, the experience of listening was like eating newly-baked bread.  There was a taste to it.

After the break we had to make our own duos for flute and clarinet with a four note series derived from the divisions of a tritone. It wasn’t so much a theme but a series of pitch objects and we relentlessly brainstormed its possibilities. We did all the usual things, but it was when we started to look beyond inversion and transposition. There is all this stuff from mathematical and symbolic formulas that I could see at last how compelling such working out, such investigation could be . . . and we’re only dealing with pitch! I loved the story he told about Alexander Goehr and his landlady’s piano, all this insistence on the internalizing of things, on the power of patterns (and unpatterns), and the benefit and value of musical memory, which he reckoned so many of us had already denied by only using computer systems to compose.

Keep the pen moving on the page, he said; don’t let your thoughts come to a standstill. If there isn’t a note there may be a word or even an object, a sketch, but do something. The time for dreaming or contemplation is when you are walking, washing up, cleaning the house, gardening. Walk the garden, go look at the river, and let the mind play. But at your desk you should work, and work means writing even though what you do may end in the bin. You will have something to show for all that thought and invention, that intense listening and imagining.

— The End —