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Poetrylover May 2016
Symphony, oh symphony
The way you hold life,
Feels like a thrive,
With your ups & downs
You make it right,
So we hold it tight.

Oh my beautiful symphony,
To you my dear,
I fear
Your loss.
to you my dear,
I surrender,
Just to remember,
Remember your treat.

With the defeat,
Comes our rhyme ,
That sounds like a metal chime.

You bare
What is unfair,
But still sound beautiful,
With all the distractions around.

Symphony, oh my symphony
How bountiful you are,
Even during a war.
beautiful symphony
oh, so sweet.
your melodies caress me
from my soul to my feet

beautiful symphony
you rest in our heart
you flow through our veins
from the end to the start

beautiful symphony
oh, how bittersweet
just as quickly you began
no sooner, you retreat.

beautiful symphony
or as we call it, love
caresses our senses
then flies away like a dove

beautiful symphony
live in our memory
any feeble recording
could not, as beautiful, be.
cassie sky Sep 2012
This cave is my sanctuary; cold, damp, filled with minerals and creatures.
I sit cross legged peering out through the crescent shaped doorway mama nature has created.  I have never been more at peace than I am when I’m here.  

The water crashes ******* the barnacle covered rocks beneath me.  The mist from the waves whirls its way up to sooth my aching skin.  The sea calls my name in the way that an angel calls you into the light.  
At first it’s just a delicate whisper.  The voice is so charming and playful that it begins to lure me in. As i begin to drift further, letting the voice carry my thoughts, the waves pound harder and the symphony the sea has written me rapidly grows in volume and intensity.  

The tension becomes so strong that the sky starts to erupt.  The clash of the clouds creates a prismatic light sequence leaving the sky looking magnificently iridescent. I sit unstirred, reveling in it's beauty.

The sea is now agonizingly screaming for me to succumb to its cool paradise.

For a while I just sit and enjoy the elegance of the symphony.  Once the sky starts to lower its darkened veil, I know it is time to go.  
I stand up with more certainty than I had ever felt before.  
I slowly take three steps forward, embracing the feeling of the dirt in between my toes.  
Two long strides, and then I leap.  The thick foggy air caresses my body as it swiftly careens downward.  

The symphony ends with a splash.
Adilson Smith Nov 2017
I would say
I love you with all my heart.

But that's not quite right.

For I love you with far much more
Than just that one part.

For instance,
I love you with my lips:
They pucker lovingly like filled balloons
Rising skyward in a knot.

I love you also
With my eyes. Like a ruly clerk,
They sieve your frame with careful affection,
Vitalized by every detail.

My ears, too, are full of love.
I can feel them during the night;
Thumping with blood
As you rise and decline
Asleep in my nook.

There are many others.
My eyebrows, so enlivened,
Agitate my face
And my toes, so excited,
Tense in my shoes
As though afraid of getting wet.

Other parts aren’t so conspicuous.
My arms plot in the dark --
They long to swim around your waist
And link us back to breast.

And my fingers, naughty things,
Scheme to tease your dress
Above your pretty knees
And above your pretty chest.

Would you believe,
Even my ****'s involved!
Though he’s more obvious
With his *****, open smile
And cheeky morning breath.

But chief of all my loving parts
Is my un-run soul
Unkenneled, at last,
Sprinting furiously
Next to yours.
# love #silly

Note -- this is very much a rewrite of Watsky's splendid and original "love poem" (worth checking out on YouTube).
Heather Mirassou May 2010
Is it a dream or distant memory?

An Italian Concerto begins

The alto singer bellows

A passionate tale

Proud and stout

He commands attention

                                                      ­      A classic narcissistic symphony


Balancing a tight-rope

A thunderous crescendo begins

Drums rattle and roll

Strumming your violin

You tip, waddle and fall

Boom, Bang, Ting, Tang

                                                          A­ symphony of broken things


Your white walls marred

Sheet-Rock littered floors

By years of crimson scarlet

You know this scene by heart

This is your life

A dramatic melody

                                                         ­   A symphony of broken things


You muster your courage

Hit your knees and pray

Picking up the pieces

Hoping his tune will change

You begin an ensemble

Piecing remnants together again

                                                          ­      A symphony of broken things
Copyright Heather Mirassou   2010
Nigel Morgan Mar 2014
This board is not on the wall. It rests on a worktable against a wall. It’s almost the length of the table, perhaps a foot short. On top of the board its wooden frame makes a shelf ideal for photographs or cards to balance precariously, photographs and cards too precious to pin. Today there are five, yes they change from day to day, and today (from left to right) there’s an original drawing in walnut ink of a winter field, a photo of two children looking from a cliff top towards a peninsula’s end, a card called Autumn Spey from a lithograph by Angie Lewin, an invitation to a gallery opening, and a What’s On brochure – from another gallery – showing some unusual tapestry.

The Notice Board is 100 x 60 cm. The wooden frame is slight, probably home-made, but well-made, with a dark brown hessian surface. Not that you can see much of the surface as it is covered with stuff: photographs, images, poems, pictures, cards, quotations, a prayer, an origami bird, a doctor’s prescription, a piece of tapestry, an invitation, an address, lists galore, a cheque or two, a diagram (of a knot), a concert program. Not everything can be seen directly as many items are shared by a single pin and hidden four, even six, notices deep. Every so often the items are unpinned and consigned to a folder and filed, and so the process of choosing and pinning starts over again. This can happen after a holiday, returning uncluttered by days walking the cliff paths with only the quiet sea to gaze at and the cottage blissfully free of things known, things owned.  So when back at the desk, in front of the notice board, it seems right to be beginning again.

Mozart’s Linz Symphony is playing quietly in the background. It’s that time of day when music is sometimes allowed to frame work at this desk and blot out the going home noise of buses in the city street moving away from the stop three floors below. Linz, the capital of Upper Austria and now a large industrial city straddling the banks of the Danube, once gave its name to Linzertorte, a cake of jam, cloves, cinnamon, and almonds, and this remarkable symphony by Mozart. The composer had only just married his Constanza and wrote to his long suffering father:

When we reached the gates of Linz . . . , we found a servant waiting there to drive us to Count Thun's, at whose house we are now staying. I really cannot tell you what kindnesses the family are showering on us. On Tuesday, November 4, I am giving a concert in the theatre here and, as I have not a single symphony with me, I am writing a new one at break-neck speed, which must be finished by that time. Well, I must close, because I really must set to work.

And set to work he did. He had just 4 days to compose, write the parts (though Constanza helped), and rehearse an orchestra. Such is life for the working composer, even today. Maybe not a summons from a beneficent Count, but a phone-call from a producer with a deadline. It is the film or TV score to be composed at break-neck speed. And it can be done, believe me. It may not be sublime as Mozart, but it gets done: there are ways and means.

But this is today’s background, and as these words are written the gracious siciliano of the Symphony No.36 plays away. Such a tender confection.

Looking up at the notice board where does one start? Each pinned piece is a divertissement, an aide memoire to times, events, places, and people. It is a mixture of the colourful, the curious, the necessary, the unusual, the nostalgic, and the personally precious. These things are the qualifications required to occupy a place on this board.

But now Haydn takes over the musical background, Symphony No.88. No descriptive name here, just his wonderful music: his first symphony to score trumpets and timpani, and with more than a touch of Turkish in the Minuetto and Finale.

So close your eyes now (let’s listen to Haydn for a while), then slowly open them and choose from the notice board what first catches your attention.

It’s a coloured sketch of flowers on an A5 sheet of cartridge paper. It is outlined delicately in pen, coloured variously with pastels, green, orange, purple, red. The vase is a glass bowl. It’s set on a window-sill and there’s the frame of a window faintly rendered. There’s no artifice in the arrangement. These are flowers from a garden, picked and now firmly ****** into the bowl. Immediately the long, quiet east-facing room comes alive to colour. It’s in shade now the sun has moved since midday when the flowers arrived after a journey of 40 miles in a hot car wrapped in moist newspaper and silver foil. It is a special gift and its beauty remains vivid for days. When visitors visited gentle comments are made on their fresh colours.

At night when the room is only lit by a standard lamp standing by a pale yellow settee the flowers sleep in the darkness, holding a vivid memory of a day of colour and light. A recording of the Schumann quartets plays passionately during the ‘close to the end of summer’ evenings. Hands are held, and between movements there is an occasional exploratory kiss. Such was their collective fear of passion overcoming other endeavours . . .

In the early morning time when she slept in the room next door oblivious to his wakefulness he would enter the long studio room with its four windows to find the first sunlight patterning the floor. The flowers were wide-awake, their perfume rich in the still morningtime. He would stand entranced to see such beauty brought from her city garden; the first of many gifts he would come to treasure. His sketch was an amateur’s, but four summers past it continued to give much joy and dear memories. It had something of the solemnity of Mozart’s siciliano, and if an image could be said to have a right tempo, it had a right tempo, a gracefulness roughly hewn perhaps, but full of grace.
Kail Jun 2018
I’m caught up in a cacophony
a mix of jarring noises sounding all at once
Your voice drowned out by hateful screams
reminding me of choices that make me
forget that You ever loved me

I wring my hands tight
with every single fight
that I watch myself lose again
and again
and again
and again
and my sin whispers words that
fall like anvils dropped from
the empire state building
and that cacophony gets that much louder.

And I come to find I certainly lack the power
to do anything that seems even of the slightest worth
to me, to you, to everyone that I threw away
because those anvils that hit me yesterday
hit me just a little too hard and
I don't want to get hit again because
I just might die next time.

My memory offers me nothing but unrest as my
conscience is put to the
test that I keep forgetting that I’m supposed to study for
and it's easy to blame it on the dog because it ate my textbook
or at least I say that because I don't want to look
at the words of life that I come to find only condemn me
for all the things I know I was supposed to do right the first time.

Because at first I think I knew
that You were the only one who was worth it
worth all my devotion and energy
and at one point I think I was blissfully caught up
in what sounded like a symphony
that in spite of the giant mess that was my life the Creator of the universe was somehow madly in love with me.

But now all I seem to do
is wonder why I can't hear the melody
only ever feeling guilty
that the grand staff where you wrote that symphony
strikes nerves instead of chords
leaving me feeling depressed, broken and even bored
and instead of a song I see an impossible score
that I'm sure I could never perform
well enough to feel like I was worthy of Your love.

But the person you sang to back then
I'm pretty sure he hated you
deeply longing for his sin
that he was head-over-heels for
a nightmare he said was his best friend.
And Lord I wish I could say all of this in the past tense
But my pretense can only go so far
you have scars for things I did today on your hands and feet!
And the noise of this reality hits me so hard that I can hardly breathe
Let alone begin to see that you never stopped playing the symphony.

Instead of striking me dead where I stand
and pouring out all the wrath you can
It makes so much more sense
That you should take my life
to make me pay the ultimate price
Jesus, You never did anything wrong
It should have been me, but in that song...

The lyric rings “Jesus paid it all.”

Oh Lord, how I long
that the cacophony
be drowned out by Your symphony
that I would hear every curse
Reorchestrated instead to sing of mercy
That every anvil that falls
in a hope to fell me
would be cast into the infinite sea
of grace where my body was buried
and it was!

The old me is dead and done
Yesterday is a memory and no longer
what I'm doomed to become
because the price You paid

I confess, God, it's enough.
Rewrite of an earlier piece. Tried to be a little more honest.
Yates Feb 2014
I remember the first time I said your name,
and I wondered how sounds can roll off tongues like raindrops can roll down windshields and spell out the things I can't say but I can feel, like how kids roll around in fields because it makes them feel good, and how dogs roll around with kids in fields because it makes them feel good, or how cats roll around wherever they want because they're cats and they feel like it,
or how I write really long pointless metaphors because they make me feel good. And the point is, I really like the feeling of your name on my lips.
And I remember the first time I heard your voice,
and how it was sweeter than any symphony I'd ever heard, and how it sometimes reminded me of birds and how they don't always fly in a straight line, because your symphony never played in a straight line unless you were singing. And even then I loved how it felt on my ears, especially when you said you would always be here.
I remember the first time I looked into your eyes,
and I wondered how oceans could fit into such a small space,
and I wondered how oceans didn't always have to be blue,
and I wondered if oceans would always make me think of you.
And even when your oceans were stormy, I knew that the waves would die down and the skies above the oceans in your eyes would hold the most beautiful sunsets I'd ever seen,
and I wondered if sunset would always be my favourite time of day.
I remember the first time you held me in your arms
because I was missing home, and your arms felt like the warmest home I'd ever known. And even now I sometimes miss that home and the way your arms would tell me everything is alright, and the way your oceans would surround me, and I wouldn't feel like I was drowning anymore.
I remember the night you were worlds away when you called me and said that you were afraid.
You didn't have to say it for me to know that you were afraid of yourself.
I remember how I could hear the oceans in your eyes running over, and I could hear your sunset skies getting cloudy.  
I remember how your symphony had off notes because one of the violins was broken and your oceans running over got everyone's music wet.
I remember letting your name roll off my tongue, and how it felt like a tank was rolling over my heart when your broken symphony rolled off
"I'm sorry, I just can't live like this anymore. I love you. Goodbye."
And I remember the oceans in my eyes spilling over until they ran dry, and screaming to a dial tone symphony that you can't leave me like this, because you promised you would always be here.
You promised.
I remember how there wasn't a sunset that night.
How, a year later, I still wish that you were only sleeping the last time I saw you.
A year later, when I pick up the phone I still wish it would be your symphony playing on the other end, because that sound was sweeter than any words I could ever write for you, but I'll write them anyways so maybe you'll know that a year later, when I see oceans I still think of you.
When I'm missing home I still think of you.
When I hear symphonies, I still think of you.
And I hope you know that a year later, sunset is still my favourite time of day.
Slammity slam slam slammy slam. Poem.
Robin Carretti Aug 2018
Where do we meet
    Oh! No He_*
Getting onto
the next courses
Oh La- La "Cheri"
K>ANSAS>>City

_ Prime spot pretty

 let's >- jump ))) To Love
Please raise the horses

What a skirt steak in her
Petticoat Junction
Going to Kansas City affection
Different tribe or breed
What needs to love me
tender Elvis meet Beavis Buthead
    More  T.L.C  
computer DOC Tick Tock
IRS taking a meat beef
chunk is everybody drunk
IOS what is really the meat
Business Politician Trump

Subscribe well done
Cooked or rare spooked
Taking a Spin City kick
She got canned and licked
The prime meat hot seat

The ******* who arrives
first class steak knifes
Ms. Pork hard chew 
Mr. Beans second rate
Dark pumpernickel
Saloon *******, he
is eating
The young tender
chicken leg

High five thigh? Hands
up Robin Fly
Save the meat "let it be"
  "Let it Be" Beatles
The beat Colonel deep fried
Grade A rare meat slicing

Eating in a board meeting
The pig meat market
of pricing

Doe a deer
he loves
International beer
A very sensitive time
Slaughterhouse no way out
His poker face meets
potato heads beef jerky
Surrender Weds
maple smiles picky
The rich Syrup
Disney Mickey Mouse
Kansas City Wonder
meat house

The beauty of animals
"Moms kettle she is talking
to Parrots" meat
the market for rings riot
Six enemies making
6 rounds
Six servants 666 carats
Robin smiles heartily
"Campbells Chicken" little


He's the Beef Man stew
If you only knew

He's spitting tobacco chew
She peels the potato for the
meathead bad to the
T-bone Dachshund I Bone

Garlic knots heart of the
Sausage wearing the
meat corsage Superbowl
My sweet basil good soul
Grilling your bullhead
Pirate Ribeye steak pupils
Mr. "Billygoat" Bachelorette
Hair flat crepe Suzette

Moms Korean style fuss
coleslaw
what a seesaw
Playing Porgy and Bess
 Scarlet the red rare meat
Rolling stone baking pin
Mississippi one or two
Under my meaty thumb

Comes in three-4-5-6- Lucky 7
-Crazy 8 furries
Nine meat ribs-10 babies
with bibs
Hungry Man meat when!!
Country plaid tablecloth
"Kansas Men" of the cloth
The Pig approval
Kansas City Mayor
new arrival

Family together eating
Don't eat our animals
Why is life so unfair
Feeding the poor
with cans
The bad cut of meat devil
this is not the "Grade A"
This is not a ring
circus trainer Bullseye

Robin coffee animal-friendly
Two peas in a pod I pods
  I tune like Gods
Were the luckiest people to have
animals  

The Floridian with dog murals
Palm trees green thumb
plants sunshine events
The symphony dog tails
of hunts
Whats to compare her twilight
eyes hold the moment stare
Talk to the animal's hearts care
The barbecue all the meat men and the women who love their fruit listen to the Owl lady how she hoots those Kansas city slicker boots and the Hehaw have a good time with family and friends treat the animals with tender loving care
There's an orchestra inside of me
Ready to start the symphony
Dear God I hope there's someone willing to listen
I offer no aesthetic
Yet still present a masterpiece in the making
The conductor keeps delaying the start
Impatience and anger is starting to grow within the audience
Many get up and leave
Few stay to listen
The symphony has now begun
The few that have stayed cherish every note
Every second lingers in their minds
Analysis of the truth is being made
Judgement arising
Eventually the symphony will die down
Idle once more
Preparing for what will be presented next
Collecting confidence
The audience will decide whether or not to
Stay
And once again, many leave
The repetition of this cycle appears never ending
When will I receive my standing ovation ?
My audience is dwindling
All I ask is for you to
Stay
I promise that my symphony can be music to your ears
entablature archetypal wrangle arguable arraign arrest ascribe arsenal article artificial artisan ascension austere askance obliquely aspire assail assault assay assert diligence obsequious assimilate stigma perspicacious astute asunder atman atrium attrition intrepid autonomous avarice avert avocation azimuth azure abbreviate aberrant abhorrent relinquish loathe abstinence abstention  abysmal accelerate accordance accoutrement accrue exasperate acquaintance baccalaureate bacillus backbite baggage ballistic baluster bandolier banister barrage barranca barrier bartizan basilica bastion batholiths bathyscaphe battalion batten battle bauble ***** beastly ******* beckon beacon bazaar bizarre Bedouin beguile behavior beleaguer belligerent belvedere berserk beseech bewilder bezant bicker bigamy bight bilk billet billiard billow biogenic biscuit bivouac blatancy blizzard bodacious boggle bollix bombardier boudoir bouquet butte boutique bower brassier mesa breach breech brochure brogue brooch broach bruise brusque buccaneer buffoon bureau buttress buxom caffeine cauldron calisthenics calligraphy callous camouflage campaign campanile cannery cannibal canny cantaloupe cantankerous cantilever capacity capillary capricious carbohydrate caricature carnivorous carouse carriage cartography casserole cassette cataclysm catastrophe cache categorical caterwaul cavalier cauliflower celerity alacrity cellophane cellulose cemetery centennial cereal cerebellum ceremonial cesarean cessation chaff challenge champagne chandelier changeable chaparral charade chargeable chassis chateau chauffer chauvinism Cheshire chiaroscuro chicanery chiffon chigger chrysanthemum cipher circuit citadel clairvoyant clastic clique coalesce coercible coincidental colloquial colossal column combustible communicable community commute complacency compulsory comradery conceit conceal concession confetti conglomerate conjugal connive connoisseur consensus constellation consummate continuity contrivance convalesce convenient convertible convolution copasetic copious corduroy coriolis cornucopia corollary corpse corpuscle correlate correspondent corridor corroborate corrosion corrugate corrupt costume counselor countenance counterfeit courageous courier courtesy covert covetous cranny crease credenza credulity crescent ******* criterion crochet crocodile croissant crotchety crucial cruel cryptic cuddle cuisine cul-de-sac culinary culpable culvert cumbrous cummerbund ******* cunning curare curiosity curtilage curtsy curvaceous custody cylindrical cymbal cynicism cyst dabble daffodil daiquiri damsel dastardly dazzle deceit debilitate debonair debris debutant decency decipher decimate deconcentrate decorum decrepit dedicate defamation defendable defensible deference deficient deficit definitive defoliate delectable deliberate delicatessen delinquent delirious demarcate dementia demolish demure denigrate dentil denunciation deplorable depreciate dereliction derisory derrick descent desirable despair desperate despicable despondent destine deterrent detonate deviance devisal devisor devour dexterous diabolicalness diagnosis dialogue diamond diaphragm diarrhea dichondra dawdle differentia difficulty diffuse dilapidate dilate dilemma diligent dilute diminutive dinghy dinosaur director  dirigible disadvantageous disastrous disperse disciplinary discomfiture discordant discotheque discreet discrete discrepancy disgust disguise dishevel dispersal dissect dissention dissertation dissident dissipate dissolve dissonant distillate distortion distraught disturbance divvy docile docket doctrinal dodder ***** eccentric linguistics domical dominate domineer dominion dossier doubloon douse drawl dreary dubious dulcet dungeon duodenum duress dwindle dynamism dynasty ebullition echinoderm eclectic ecliptic economist ecumenism edifice editor educe effervesce efficacious egalitarian elaborate elapsed eerie elegy eligible eliminate elite elixir elongate elucidate elusion eluviation emaciate embarrass embassy embellish embezzle embroidery embryo emissary emollient emphatic enchilada encore encumbrance endeavor endogenous endure engender ensemble enthusiast entourage entrepreneur epaulet epitome erratic erroneous escapade esophagus espionage esplanade etcetera ethereal etiquette eucalyptus eulogy exaggerate exacerbate excellency exhilarate expectant exquisite facetious Fahrenheit fallacy fanion fealty feisty frisky felicitous fenestration ferocious fertile fervent fickle fictitious fiery finesse finial fjord flaccid fledge flippant flirtatious flivver fluctuate follicle forbearance forbiddance forehand forebode forceps forfeit forgo forlorn formidable foundry foyer fracas fraught frivolous frolic frontier funnel copious furrow fuselage fusillade futile forgone frivolity frolic galaxy galleon galoot galore galoshes gambit gangrene ganglion gargantuan gargoyle gardenia garret garrote gasolier gatling gawky gazebo gazelle gazette geezer geisha gendarme generosity genre genteel gentry genuine geodesic geranium gesticulate ghastly giggle ****** gimmick giraffe gizzard glacier glamour glimmer glimpse glisten glottis gluteus gluttony glyph gnarly gnaw goddess godling gorgeous gorilla gory gossamer gourd gouts gracious gradient granary grandeur granulation grapple gratify gratuitous gregarious grenade committee grievance griffin gristle grotesque gristly grotto grouch groupie grisly grovel grudge gruel gruesome gubernatorial guerrilla guffaw guidable guidon guile guillotine gullet gymnasium gyrate habitable hacienda haggard halibut halitosis hallelujah hallow halyard hammock harangue harass harried hasp hatred haughty hearth hedonism hegira heinous hegemony hemisphere hemophilia hemorrhage herbivorous hereditary heresy heritage heroine hesitate hibiscus hidden hideous hieroglyphic highfalutin high-rise hilarity hippopotamus hoarse holler holocaust holster homicidal horror hosiery hurricane hydrant hydraulic hydronic hyena hygiene hyphen hypnotize hypochondria hypocrisy hypocrite hypotenuse hysteria idiocy igloo ignoramus ignore illicit illiterate illustrate imbecile immaculate immaterial immature immersible immigrant immune impasse impeccable impedance impenetrable impervious imperfect implement implicate implicit important impressible innately inert impression impugn inadequate inanimate inauspicious incandescent incantation incarcerate incentive incinerator inclusion incoercible incompressible incontrovertible controversy indefatigable inconvertible inconvincible incorruptible indices indictment indigent indigestion digestible indignant indiscretion indiscreet indisiplined indiscernible inducible inebriate ineffable inefficacy ineludible inexorable inexpiable inextricable infallible infatuation inferior inflammatory inflexible infuriate inimitable iniquitous infuse infusion ingenuity ingratiate inimical innards innocence innovate innumerable inoculation insatiable insectivorous insincerity insinuation inspection inspirator instability installation insurance insufferable insufficiency insurrection insupportable integrity intellect intelligence intemperance intension interaction interception intercession interdiction interface interference interpolate interrogate interrupt intersperse intervene interstice intractable intergalactic intransigent intravenous intrepid intricate intrigue introductory introject intrude inundate invective invariable invertebrate investigate intuitive invertible investiture inveterate inviable invidious inviolate invigorate invincible invoke invocation invalidate involute invulnerable impregnable ionosphere ipso-facto irascible iridescent eradicable irrational irredeemable irrefragable irrefutable irregular anomalous irrelevant irreproachable irrepressible irresistible irrevocable irreverent irresponsible irritative irrigate irritability isolable isosceles isostasy issuance isthmus italicize iterative itinerary interjection ******* jackhammer jackknife jackpot jackrabbit jaguar jai alai jalopy jalousie jamboree Japanese jacquerie Jacobin jargonize jaunt javelin jealous jehoshaphat jeopardy jocular jouncy journal jubilant jubilee judgment judicature judicious juggernaut jugular juke julep juncture junta jurisprudence juvenilia juxtaposition kahuna kalpa kamikaze kerf kangaroo karat ken katzenjammer katydid kempt kerosene kewpie khaki kibitz kibosh kilter kimono kinesiology kleptomaniac knell knowledge knuckle kook kowtow kulak kyrie labyrinth laccolith laceration lackadaisical laconic lacunar lacquer lagging laissez-faire lamprey languish lanyard lapidary laputan larceny lariat laryngeal larynx lascivious latent latter lattice latrine launderette lavatory laxity lechery legacy bequeath legend leister lei leisure lemming leniency lentic leopard lethal lethargy lettuce leviathan levitate lexical liable levity liaison libation liberate licentious lieutenant ligament lilac limnetic limousine limpid lineage lynchpin lineolate lingerie lingual liniment linoleum liquefy litany literacy lithesome littoral lizard loath local loiter longevous loquacity lottery louver lucidity lucrative ludicrous luminary lummox lurid luscious lyricism machinator machinelike machismo macrocosm besmirched machiavellian mackerel mademoiselle maelstrom maggoty magisterial magnanimous magnifico maintenance malaprop malarkey malediction malamute malicious malign malinger malleable mandarin maneuver mange maniacal mannequin manure manzanita maquette maraca maraschino marauder marbleize marbly marionette marmalade marquee marquetry marrow marshal marshmallow martyr mascara masochism massacre matriarchy maudlin mausoleum maxillary mayonnaise meager meandrous medial medieval megalith mediocre Mediterranean megalomania melancholy melee membrane memorabilia menagerie mercenary mendacity meritorious mesmeric mesquite metallurgy metaphor meticulous metronome metropolitan mezzanine micrometer midriff mien demeanor millennium minarets minion minuscule minutia misanthropic miscellaneous mistletoe moccasin modus operandi monaural mongrel monotony morgue morose morsel moribund mortgage mosaic mosque mosquito motley mottle mucous membrane mucus mullion multifarious munificent museum musketeer mutable mustache mutineer myopic myrmidon mystique naïve narcissism narcosis narrate nausea navigable Neanderthal necklace needle nefarious negligible nemesis neophyte nertsy  nerve-racking nestle nether newfangled nocturnal nonchalant non sequitur normative Norwegian nostalgic nuisance nullify obedient obeisance obelisk obese objectify oblate oblique obliterate oblivious obsess obsolete obsolescence obstacle obstinate occupy occurrence ocelot odious oedipal officiate ogle ogre oligarchy omelet omnificent omniscient ontological argument oodles oomph opaque operable operative opossum optimal orangutan orchard orchestra ordinance oregano orgiastic oriel oriole ornery orphan osculate ostensive ostrich osteology oust overwhelm overwrought oyster pachyderm pacific pageant painstaking palate palaver libel palette pallet palomino pamphleteer panorama pantheism parapet paradigm papier-mâché paraffin paralyze parishioner parliament parody parquetry parsimonious pasteurize pathogenic payola ******* pediment pendant pendentives penicillin pennant pentathlon perception percussion perennial parameter perimeter peripheral peristalsis permissible pernicious perron perseverance persistent persona persnickety personnel persuasion petite pertinacious pessimistic pestilent pestle petticoat petulant phallus phantasmagoria pharaoh pharmaceutical peasant philander phenomenal philosopher phlegm phoenix phooey phosphoresce physique picayune picturesque piety pilfer finagle pilaster pillage pineapple pinnacle piquant pique piteous pitiful pittance pizzazz placate placenta plagiarism plaintiff plateau platypus plausible plinth plunderous pluvial poinsettia pollutant polygamy pommel ponderous portico portiere portentous prairie precipitous predecessor predicate predilection preeminent preempt preferential premier preparation preposition prerogative presumption pretentious preternatural privilege proclivity prodigious proffer progenitor progeny promissory promontory propellant propensity propound proselyte prospectus protégé protocol protuberant pseudonym  ptomaine pulchritudinous pursuant pygmy pylon python qualm quarrel quarry quash queer quell querulous quibble quitter quixotic rabbet rabbit rabbi radiant rambunctious rancor rankle raspberry rethink rebellion recant recital reconcile redundant referral reglet relevant reluctant remiss reminiscent remnant rendezvous renegade repartee reprieve repertoire repetitious reprehensive reprisal repugnant rescind reservoir resistant resurgence resurrect revelry reverie retaliate reticent retrieve retrograde reveille reverberation reversible reversion rhapsody rhetoric rheumatism rhinoceros rhinoceri rhubarb ribaldry ricochet riddance rigmarole risqué rive rollick Romanesque Rosicrucian rotisserie rotunda rogue roulette rubato ruminate rusticate sabotage sabbat saboteur sacrilege sadomasochist salacious salmon salutatory samurai sapphire sarcasm sarcophagus sardonic sarsaparilla sassafras sassy satiate satirical saturate saunter savoir-faire savvy scabbard scaffold scalawag scarcity scathe scenario scenic schism sciatic nerve ******* scintillate scissor scourge scrawny scrimmage scribble scruffy scrounge scrumptious scrunch scrupulous scrutiny scurry scythe sedition seethe seismic self-applause seltzer semiporcelain seniority sensible sensual separate sepulcher sequel sequin sequoia serape serenade sheaves serendipity  servant settee shabby shackle shanghai shanty shellac shenanigan Sherlock shirk shish kebob shoulder shrapnel shriek shrubbery shtick shush shyster Siamese sibyl significant simile simplicity simultaneous sinewy siphon skeptic skiff skillet skirmish skullduggery slaughter ****** sleeve sleuth slither slough sluice smart aleck  smidgen  smithereens  smolder  smorgasbord snazzy sneer snide snivel snorkel sobriety socioeconomic sojourn solder soldier solemn solicit soluble solvent sombrero somersault soothe soprano sophisticate sophomore sortie soufflé sousaphone ***** spiel souvenir sovereign spaghetti spandrel sparrow spatter sphinx spatula species specific spectacle spectral spelt sphincter spinach spinneret spiritual splatter splitting splurge spry  splutter sporadic sprawl sprinkler spree sprightly squawk spurious sputter  squabble squalor squander squeak squeal squeamish squeeze squiggle squinch squirrel stable squoosh stabilizer stagnant stagnate stalactite stalagmite stammer stampede stationary stationery statue statuesque statute staunch stealthy stein stellar stench stencil stoic steppe sterile stickler stifle stimulant stingy stirrup stolid strafe straggle strangulate stratagem strategy strenuous stretch strident stringent strudel streusel strychnine studious stultify stupe stupefy stupendous special stylus stymie styptic sublimate subliminal submergible substitute submersible subpoena subsequent subsidiary substantiate suburb subversion success succession succinct succor succulent succumb sufferance suffocate suggest suicidal sully sultry sumptuous sundae sundry superfluous superior supersede superstitious surreal supplicate surrender surrogate survey surveillance suspension suspicion sustenance swarthy ******* swath swear sweaty swelter swerve swindle swivel swizzle sycamore syllable symphony symposium symptom syndicate syndrome synonym synonymous synopsis synthetic syphilis syringe syrup suffrage tableau tabloid tacit tambourine tandem tangible tarantula tarot taunt technique telekinesis temperamental temperance thence temporal temporary tenuous tequila terrace terrain terrific terrify tetanus tether thatch thistle thither through though throat throttle thwack thwart ticklish tiffany timbre tirade titillate toboggan tolerant tongue top-notch topography  tortoise trauma tortuous torturous tourist tracery tournament tourniquet trachea traffic tragedy tragic traipse traitor tranquility transcend travesty transcribe treachery treatise trellis trepidation trestle trinket triplicate triumphant trivial troglodyte troubadour  trousers truncate tumultuous tundra turbid turpitude turquoise tutelage twixt twiddle twitter tycoon tyke typhoon tyrannical tyrannize tyranny umbrella unfulfilled unanimous usury undulate unequivocally unguent urethra unpre
There was a motion on the floor for the nomination of a proxy to be my epigone.  I feared I didn't have enough votes to challenge so I filibustered.
CarolineSD Jul 2019
I remember my father listening to Brahms in the living room,
Eyes closed,
Fingers tapping notes on his knees,
That ratty recliner a front row seat;
An island in an ocean of music and a soul
Carried by the ethereal harmony of a
Symphony felt in the bones.

Even when he could no longer raise his arms
And his legs like stones
Rested still at the end of the bed;
When the poison of cancer destroyed all the strength he had,
I watched him still find something sweet
In the music.

They played it on some old radio
And his eyes would close as if
Those symphonies of hope
Could sustain his heart beat
Just a little while
Longer.

I am his daughter, and I know this
Because I also listen for it.

In the gentle whispering of the Cottonwood leaves
Or the light strain of the Meadowlark on a summer evening,

There are also strings;

The faint echo of a violin.

It rolls in like a river from a valley far away and plays the notes of hope.

I can hear the opening sonata quote something like,

Don’t give in

To the darkness.

A symphony plays in the winds that cascade across the jagged rocks of the mountains.

A symphony plays in the sky.

A symphony rolls in on the waves of the northern seas,

Across the reddened canyons;

The notes they bleed like rain upon the
Parched and desiccated world.

And sometimes, it plays in your heart.
You orchestrate the notes with your hands when you run them through my hair,
And suddenly, from somewhere far away,
I can hear the whispered strings of my own violin,

Singing.



Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all

-Emily Dickinson

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KL9qp0FNEzU
Tammy M Darby Apr 2016
I conduct the symphony of hell
In the earths bowels overflowing with sin
Silence rules momentarily as my infamous symphony begins
Horned demons of ancient tales and nightmares
Eagerly pluck their human strings

Shrieking and pitiful wailing
The crescendo of suffering starts
Moans of the forever ******
Music so terrible and dark

Burst forth the voices of guilt ridden souls
From sulfur fumed burning pits of fire
Each must bear their own punishment
The offense of mortal desire

Sounds of tortured emotions
So shrill and high they scream
Those wrapped in flames until the sun dies
Drowning in insanity's seas
Their pain only adds to the haunting composition
In my arrangement of demonic melodies

So into the depths of hell I delve
For notes of the cursed
Can be found no where else
These are the lyrics of the lost
I am the conductor
Of the symphony in hell

All Rights Reserved @ Tammy M. Darby April 19. 2016
Wide Eyes Jun 2014
Twilight. Clear skies. The merry Moon brightened.
Past a million faceless entities, he clumsily hastened.
Concerned glances- he emanated an incomprehensible sorrow.
Yet his sad eyes met none; he walked on-his head hanging low.

Her endearing smile- from one dimple to the other it had playfully run,
The dreamy sparkle in her enchanting eyes as she had spoken, sans inhibition.
The embarrassed blush that would succeed her laugh- untamed and resonating.
Which to his ears was a symphony of the finest notes, of the richest tuning.

In the days close to curtain-fall, ceased had her symphony’s pleasant sound.
The sparkle cruelly fled her eyes, as her golden locks embraced the ground.
How he had yearned for the malevolent illness to leave and return their bliss.
But he could only remain spectator as dreary Death proceeded to make her His…

Armed with tears, the pretty lilies on the prettier Lily’s gravestone laid he,
In the eerie silence, the symphony in his mind his sole solace would be.
As his tears hit the soil, she looked down and sobbed without respite.
The melancholy Moon dulled. Overcast skies. Night.
David Leger Nov 2013
Link to Music: https://soundcloud.com/david-leger-1/deep-dark-symphony-1

I left the shore and with my memories
Traveled far from forlorn fantasies
The sea winds sailed me into waters deep
All the future and past I weep

Abandoned my pen in shame
Silent deep words lost in vane
A dying poet without a name
And nothing but the sea remains

Drifting on endlessly through dreamworlds and the sea
I see a meadow a scene that comforts me
Warm winds breeze in the rye and golden wheat
There my heart will take its final beat

I yearn to grace the shore of Elysian Fields
Gilded beaches, warm sunsets yield
But the sea winds howl my deep dark symphony
Dreams that only my death can set free

"And I forgive the sea
For all it's done to me
It is my home,
My grave forevermore
As the tides take me under, deeper down."

Horrid memories carved in stone
Waves can never wash away
Tortured souls that died alone
Ghost still haunt the seabed graves

Drown all hope drown all grace
Drown in past you never faced
Sins that cloud the poet’s sea
Storms rage for eternity

The albatrosses fly over
The deep dark ocean, left Cliffs of Dover
And the poet's dreams of paradise
Reborn from his sacrifice

And the symphony still plays on
Melody for those lost at sea
Heartborne poets final song
Sailing fast to Elysian Shores

“My symphony begins at the end of all love and loss."
My Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/DarknessFallenBlog
Lain Ender Feb 2012
In the chair he played,
His muscles burned with his pain.
It was always constant,
The needless burning of his nerves.

Fingers curled he played,
There was enjoyment in the music.
It erased the pain and the sadness ,
The that the many scars of his nerves gave him.

Then he was gone

17 and gone in the last beat of the hearts
we cried happy birthday
But he wasn't the only one
What of the one teacher?

You helped him play through the pain,
While you yourself suffered,
How soon were you torn from us too?
Its all to soon.

You know their will be a final symphony,
they wont let you go without the notes.
draped on your shoulders like wings,
Angels of the band.

You both were pillars of strength,
And we all remember and sing and play.
For the good don't just die young,
They are set free of their suffering.

And we love you,
Let the symphony play.
I will cry for the man i barley knew,
For he helped the one I loved.
I'm sorry this is so slap dash and likely terrible. Its hard to write through tears. I know no one on here really knows me so i will explain my hurry and my tears. 2 years ago, on his 17 birthday, I watched the brother I helped care for so much die suddenly from Multiple sclerosis. I sang him happy birthday through tears as his heart came to a stop. He was a great kid and avid member of the band where despite his illness he played the biggest instrument they had ( the Marimba). The Instructor who taught the class was a pivotal influence and was infinitely patient with his shortcomings. He too had a chronic illness, Cancer. After my Brother died he did everything he could, the band played at the funeral, the took donations and had a special  marimba with his engraved on it and even fought to have an award that is given annually to winner of a band tournament held every year in the school district. Mr Jackson (the teacher) suddenly died today, barely over forty. I cry for him because my brother could not, because i know he was a great man. I apologize for this sudden spilling of my true self but in this circumstances i can not hide behind a pen name. I remember  www.facebook.com/groups/167503548802/10150543131228803/?notif_t=like

and

www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1598573011

I cry for the ones who fall too soon, the greatest of us. I would cry for you.
kevin newman Oct 2011
Symphony of love did the orchestra play

harmonius tunes of love today

as we lay entwined in the moment

skin to skin


you played harmoniously

on my love *****

with my ***** of love

you toyed and played

tunes of your delight


with rthymic moves so sweetly

untill the chorus

climaxed in pure harmony


while symphony of love

a pure joy to see

played there music so harmoniously

while we lay together  so sensuosly


love,lust and passion

were the beats today

while the orchestra of love

fines tunes its harmonic symphony.
Tammy M Darby Jul 2013
I conduct the symphony of hell
In the earths bowels overflowing with sin
Silence rules momentarily
My infamous symphony begins
Demons of evil and nightmares
Eagerly pluck their human strings

Screaming and wailing
The music starts
Moans of the ******
Terrible and dark

Burst forth now the crescendo of souls
From the burning pit of fire
Each suffers their own punishment
The offense of mortal desire

Sounds of tortured emotions
Those inflicted with the devils disease
Shrill and high
An allotted part have they
In my arrangement of mad melodies

So into hells depth I delve
For music that can be found no where else
These are the notes of the condemned
I am the conductor
Of my symphony in hell



This poem is copyrighted and stored in author base. All material subject to Copyright Infringement laws
Section 512(c)(3) of the U.S. Copyright
Act, 17 U.S.C. S512(c)(3),
Venusoul7 May 2014
There is a light, a meathered glow, in these distant miles I run.
Embraced inside an Eggshell Case, nested in the Branchless Tree, with nothing but the billowed Air, rushing by to hold Me.  

Fill my Chest, arc and crest, as no One knows my pace in lest he runs this distance with Me.  

You be the Thud that bounds Us down, Encased in Peach seed, Nectarine, drum the Ground from brittle heat, strike a Sound, a steady Beat that brings a Rhythm back to Life, so I may fall from Branchless Tree, and land the Earth beneath Me.

My Eggshell World, the only Globe I've ever known, now shattered to my Mourning Sun.

My fragile eyes will adjust, my fragile mind, my Wanderlust, will find the Truth, on rays of Light, the Proudest moment of my Life.

I pound the Ground and powered Dust,
will Rise
the Feathers of my wing,
Will Rise
the Vision of my eyes,
WILL RISE
the Sight of Bigger Things.

And with this Freedom, rings a Bell that cracked my Shell, Conductor with his Symphony, juxtaposed my String Quartet...
Music overtakes the Moon, that brings to Life in Dead of Night, my bedside Light that shines upon this page I read...
So as my Wings move up and down like Bow against my Violin, I bring my Part in Symphony, I take my place above the Ground and circle back...
Circling
Gliding down
CIRCLING
Rising Up...
Crescendo Crash!
followed by the dimming Lights,
a Silent Pause...
Ecstatic Cheer!
Bravo...
Bravo...
Cheers the Crowd!
Play again your Symphony...
Never Stop!
my Precious Dear...
Beat your Drum!
my Darling...
Eggshells go Crackling...
Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
H Zul Jun 2015
Crescendo the silent beat of hearts in chests
at all things nigh and beauty,
or lovers' eyes locked in stargaze wrest,
on cue as sunrise scarlet symphony.

Fortissimo in birdsong chirp and banter
while car horns blare with careless fervour ;
on pavements listless feet in patter
as suits and ties commute in canter.

At noon the music peaks, forzando.
Soccer mums braced in cafe convo
of lunchtime gossip in staccato
while babes in prams asleep in piano.

On cue at sundown scarlet symphony
the baton slows in rallentando.
Call to slumber twilight melody-
the daily music diminuendo.
Andrew Parker Jul 2014
Body Parts and Curse Words Symphony Poem
(7/5/2014)

So, you think I'm an *******?
Well then my farts must smell like roses,
because I treat you the sweetest anyone could dare to stomach.
You count mistakes I've made like calories,
forgetting you are a strangling esophagus,
coated in cholesterol and stuffed with lies.
You flex between smooth to striated as visibly as a zig-zag line,
but even as I try to pass you out of my sphincter like the **** you are,
you keep finding ways to come back up my throat like acid reflux.
But I, am an *******.

So, you think I'm a *******?
Well then you must be a kidney stone,
because you refuse to leave my life any less painfully,
than an unwanted calcium deposit in my urethra.
Nice to meet ya, now bye Felicia.
***** as they come,
you ***.
Because you like to torture me,
clutching that red beating thing in my chest,
with the fierceness of a ****** clamp.
But I, am a *******

So, you think I'm a *****?
Well then I am honored to be seen as so sensitive,
because you must be a  brutal ******* crammed into my face.
Which is funny,
because you'll have your face buried in me soon enough.
You exhaust your *****-eating arsenal,
including flicks of your wicked tongue and lips,
a tiny bite as an exercise of your might.
But I'm the one here who is in control.
So call me a raging thunder **** and make my day,
because you hide in ******* disguise,
now don't be scared little guy and stare into Momma Medusa's eyes.
But I, am a *****.

So, you think I have ***** eyes?
Well then maybe you give judgmental stares,
because you are faced with a ***** reflection in the mirror,
but don't blame the fragile glass surface.
The one with smudges and stains, until it shatters,
because these eyes are no simple *** object.
They are the most beautiful brown bestowed upon my body,
and they are filled with the anger,
filled with the rage,
and filled with the envy which accompanies sorrow.
***** eyes, **** eyes,
but gaze into these eyes that are relentlessly unforgiving, named Hazel.
as if they had a name for human pieces of flesh filled with blood.
But I, have ***** eyes.

You wave these body parts around so casually,
wielding them like words used to curse someone.
You scream that they are used to sell ***.
But my body parts are no curse words,
and my body parts are no mere objects.

They are woven together to create a breathtaking symphony.
They don't belong in a sarcophagus, still alive and breathing,
my heart is here and beating,
as much as that ******* may ****,
as much as that **** may ****,
as much as that ***** may throb,
and as much as those eyes may stare,
don't you dare ever go there.

Because while I may be a compilation of body parts and curse words,
you are just beef jerky, a food mindlessly consumed, and overly salty.
Cné Sep 2017
Let me mold my body along your curves; trickle yourself into my entire being

Vulnerable, ****, my heart exposed, palpably we connect across the starry sky; you ... within me

I want your intimacy to linger along the edges of my lips hours after you've gone

I ache to be consumed by your eyes, intense with emotions, long after the dawn

Take me to your intimate chambers where hearts race; the rhythm of our silhouettes melded on satin sheets

Leisurely feel your way; a slow descend along the avenue of my rhythmic swell; forgive me of my quivering wanton needs

Allow me to graze at the gates of your femininity, drinking the honey from your pink walls; to feel your crowning point between my lips

How can I resist those wandering lips that stirs the curtains of my garden alcove; perfectly painted in honey dew, I throb for the touch of your kiss

Drape your thighs upon my shoulders; let the waves of satisfaction cascade up your spine

I beg to be released, dear God, of this intoxicating spell; I submit myself, heart laid bare; oceans of emotions no longer can I hide.

Find your eyes locking with mine; my torso parallels yours, my body pressed to you; equal in ferocity and tenderness

Mesmerize by your burning eyes in our melting flesh, so strong your hold; yet so tender your caress

Utter our names in fiery moans both whispered and screamed in heated breaths on our solitary night

Vile obscenities float out on heated breath, as cool air kiss our molded skin on the evening our time takes flight

Take me to your heart & cast away the flesh; allow our souls to weave in the throes of passion as our bodies mix into one; slow-motion ecstasy

A longing deep inside, the locked chambers of my soul to exotic places beyond our imaginationsyou sneak into my heart to fulfill my every fantasy 

Feed me the lullabies you paint on your canvas; orgiastic symphony we conduct in cascading tides; trembles throughout our bodies when our fluids mix

Let me paint upon your heart a ballet of our duet; the crescendo palette of my tide drown you in the spirit of our lyrics

Your ripe fruit quivers tenderly while our union completes; take my hands and let me be yours

Hold my sated body that tremors from the wake; a union of our souls ensnare a bond secure
~
A Collaboration with Jack Jenkins.
https://hellopoetry.com/jack-jenkins/
Morgan Mercury Sep 2013
I am not superman.
I carry around guns for protection.
I have killed many
And never was sorry.
I have stolen from men
who have stolen from others.
Do not look at me as a savior,
Not even as a big brother,
because I am nothing of a role model.
My wings have broken
and I don't even have a place to call home.
Pain is written on my skin with the smirk of a devil
leaving cracks all over for sorrow to sneak its way in and bury itself deep into my bones.
So give me hope because I'm not man enough to create my own.
I keep putting other's lives before mine hoping that counts as love
but wind up realizing that doesn't count as anything
Trust me, I'm no superman.
I can't even save myself.
I've burned my cape in the fires of hell because I've been there enough
to know I can't wear it anymore.
I have flaws enough to fill the ocean and I'm sick of drowning
and I'm tired of counting dead bodies
and I’m tired of swimming through waves I'm not big enough for.
So hear the violin and piano play my symphony
of the fallen man.
I never said I could fly.
I never said I could save your life.
I never gave up though.
So hold me tight and let me finally break and fall into the arms of someone I can trust and someone I know that'll keep my heart safe buried next to theirs.
I've played wicked games and lost too many times and now I just want to sleep.
I'm tired of turning up black and blue
But I'll do anything to protect you.
If you were never here then I would have ended this a long time ago.
I would have welcomed the salt water into my lungs
Or fall asleep in a tree and meet death in the morning as I hang in silence.
But now I beg for hope because I'm torn apart.
But I know am seen as your superman so I’m going to hang on with all my might,
And live this life with you
as a hero
as your superman.
Dean Winchester
Supernatural
Alex Carpenter Jan 2014
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
If harmony is what you’re looking for
I would compose a symphony for you

I’d create it out of the little things, usually carelessly overlooked
Writing the notes down as I go as if the pages of a book
Breaking form, strutting style
I’ll make it plain for you to see

We compliment each other well,
Regardless of the key

The sunlight burns into the trees but with the prevailing shade
The sunlight catches you in glances, as you walk away
But still I’d conduct a symphony, fingers riding every rift
Laying out a masterpiece, your own personal Fifth

I’d use my mittened hands, keeping the cadence stern
Smiling without saving face, I’m loving to relearn

My music floats atop the beat, crescendoing to the sky
The trees sway to and fro as nature joins in with a cry
Trumpet fanfare, chordal rounds, the most beautiful of sounds
If only, if only you could hear what I hear
And see these beautiful rounds

Venturing off across the medium, a tangent between right and wrong
An exhibit of choreography, justifying every wrong
You would find me smiling, artfully whirling my baton
A conductor at my finest, while trying to impress
As a romantic I expect the worst,
Without losing hope of finding the best
Continuing to break the mold, creation in rawest form
Discussion through composition, a shattering of the norms

As the piece draws to its close the conductor takes a bow
The lights dim with the curtain call as the cheers ring out
Then you’ll catch me beaming, an artificer plain to be
You’re the reason why I smile, it can’t be hard to see
Every time I see your face, all I hear

Is your symphony.
Jim Davis Apr 2017
In the last
three decades,
after we became one,
I touched
amazingly beautiful things,
horribly ugly things,  
unbelievably wondrous things

I touched nature's majesty;
hued walls of the Grand Canyon,              
crusty bark of the
Redwoods and Sequoias,
live corals of the
Great Barrier Reef,
dreamlike sandstone of the Wave

I touched magical and strange;
platypus, koalas and
kangaroos Down Under,
underwater alkali flies and
lacustrine tufa at Mono Lake,
astral glowing worms
in the Kawiti caves

I touched holy places;
Christianity's oldest churches,
the Pope's home in the Vatican,
Hindu and Sikh temples and
Moslem mosques in India,
Anasazi's kivas of Chaco canyon,
Aboriginal rocks of Uluru and Kata Tjuta

I touched glimmers of civilization;
uncovered roads of Pompeii,
fighting arenas of Rome,
terra cotta armies of Xian,
sharp stone points of the Apache,
pottery shards from the Navajo,
petroglyphs by the Jornada Mogollon

I touched fantastical things;
winds blowing on the
steppes of Patagonia,,
playas and craters of Death Valley,  
high peaks of the Continental Divide,
blazing white sands of the  
Land of Enchantment

I touched icons of liberty
and freedom;
the defended Alamo,
a fissured Liberty Bell,
an embracing Statue of Liberty,
the harbor of Checkpoints
Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie

I touched glorious things
made by man;
the monstrous Hoover Dam,
an exquisite Eiffel tower,
a soaring St Louis Arch,
an Art deco Empire State Building,
the sublime Golden Gate Bridge

I touched sparks from history;
the running path of an
Olympic flame just off Bourbon,
the last steps of Mohandas Ghandi
at Birla House before Godse,
******'s Eagle's nest and the
grounds over Der Führerbunker

I touched walls of power;
enclosed rings of the Pentagon,
steep steps of the
Great Wall of China,
untried bastions of
Peter and Paul's fortress,
fitted boulders of Machu Picchu

I touched strong hands;
of those conquering
Rommel's and ******'s hordes,
of cold warriors of
Chosin Reservoir,  
of forgotten soldiers of Vietnam,
of terrorist killers of today

I touched memories of war;
the somber Vietnam memorial,
the glorious Iwo Jima statue,
the cold slabs at Arlington,
the buried tomb of USS Arizonians,
Volgograd's Mother Russia  

I touched ugly things;
shreds of light in
Port Arthur's prison,
horrible smelly dust
in the streets from 9/11,
ash impregnated dirt
in the pits at Auschwitz

I touched oppressed freedom;
open ****** plazas
of Tiananmen Square,
smooth pipe and concrete
of the Berlin Wall,  
tall red brick walls
of the Moscow Kremlin

I touched constrained freedom;
heavy ankle and
wrist slave chains
in the South,
little windows
in Berlin's Stasi prison,
haunted cells in Alcatraz  

I touched remnants of madness;
wire and ovens of Auschwitz,
stacked chimneys and
wooden bunks of Birkenau,        
Ravensbruck, and Dachau,
the tomb of Lenin,
toppled Stalins

I touched hands of survivors;
of Leningrad's siege,
of German POWs and
of Russian fighters
of Stalingrad's battle,
of Cancer's scourges  

I touched grand things;
deep waters of the Pacific and Atlantic,
blue hills of Appalachia,
towering peaks of the Rockies,
high falls of Yosemite Valley,
bursting geysers of Yellowstone,
crashing glaciers of Antarctica and Alaska    

I touched times of adventure;
abseiling and zipping in Costa Rica,
packing Pecos wilds and Padre isles,
flying nap of earth Hueys to Meridian,
breaking arms in JRTC's box,
fighting Abu Sayyaf, and Jemaah
Islami in Zamboanga City

I touched through you;
wet sand beaches of  Mexico and Jamaica,
mysterious energy of the monoliths of Stonehenge,
rarefied air in front of the
Louvre's Mona Lisa,
ancient wonders of Giza,
Egypt's tombs and pyramids

We shared soft touches;
drifting in Bora Bora's
surreal waters,
joining hands camel trekking the
Outback's dry sands,
strolling along Tasmania's
eucalyptus forest trails

basking in swinging hammocks
under Fiji's bright sun,
scrambling in
Las Vegas' glittering and
red rock canyons,
kissing under the
Taj Mahal's symphony of arches

We shared touching deep waters;
propelled in gondolas
through the city of canals,
Drifting atop Uru cat boats on Lake Titticaca,
Swooping in jet boats
up a wild river in Talkeetna

Racing in speed boats
around Sydney's great harbour,
skimming in pangas in Puerto Ayora,
paddling the Kennebec for
East's best petroglyphs,
cruising Salzbergwerk's underwater lake

We touched scrumptious things;
Beignets and chicory coffee at DuMonde's in the Big Easy,
Hot *** with sesame sauce
in the walled city of Xian,
Peking duck, dimsum, scorpions,
snake and starfish on Wangfujing Snack Street

We touched delicious things
Crawfish heads and tails at JuJu's shack
and ten years at Jeanette's,
Langoustine at Poinciana's, Fjöruborðinus and Galapagos,
Cream cheese and loch bagels
at Ess-a' s in the Big Apple

I touched your hand riding;
hang loose waves of Waikiki,
a big green bus in Denali's awesomeness,
clip clopping carriages of Vienna, Paris,
Prague, New Orleans, Krakow,
Quebec City, and Zakopane,
the acapella sugar train of St Kitts

We shared touching on paths;
the highway 1 of Big Sur,
the Road of the Great Ocean,
the bahn to Buda and Pest,
the path to the North of Maine,
the trail of the Hoh rainforest,
and time after time, the way home

Yet,
I could spend
the next three decades,
in simple bliss,
having need for
touching nothing,
other than you!

©  2016 Jim Davis
A poem I wrote last year for my wife!  Posted now since it matches the HP' theme for today - "Places"
jake aller Dec 2019
Snarling Cup of Coffee    




I like to start my day with a hot cup of coffee
I pound down the coffee
First thing I do every day
as the dawning sun
Lights up my lonesome room

Yeah, but not just a simple cup of java Joe, but a ******* snarling sarcastic smarmy cup of coffee

I mean, - we are talking about an alcoholic, all speed ahead, always hot, always fresh, always there when I need it, angry, attitude talk to the hand Ztude, bad, bad assed, beats breaking, beatnik, bluesy, bitter, ******, bombs away, capitalistic, caffeinated up the ***, cinematic, communistic, Colombian grown, Costa Rican inspired, Cowabunga to the max, crazy assed, devilishly angelic, divine, divinely inspired, dyslexic, epic, extreme vetting, evil eye, expensive, ****** vision inducing, Ethiopian coffee house brewed, euphoric, freaky, freazoid, foxy, Frenched kissed, French brewed, funkified, foxy lady, graphic, GOD in my coffee, with Allah, Ganesh, Jesus, Kali, Buddha, Christians, Durga, Hindus, Mohamed, Jesus and Mo and their friend, the cosmic bar maid, Sai Babai, Shiva, Taoists,

Zoroastrians, drinking my god ****** coffee in Hell;

growling, gnarly, happy, hard as ice, Hawaian blessed, high as a kite, hippie, hip, hipster, hip hoppy, hot as hell yet strangely sweet as heaven, jazzy, jealous, Kerouac approved, kick ***, kick my ******* *** to Tuesday, kick down the doors and take no prisoners, grown in the Vietnam highlands by exVietcong, Guatemalan grown, kiss ***, illegal in every state, imported from all over the ******* world,

insane, lovely, loony, lonely, lonesome, malodorous mean old rotten, *******, nasty, narcotic, never whatever, never meh, never cold, not approved by the CIA, not approved by DHS, not approved for human consumption by the FDA, not your daddy’s sissified corporate cup of coffee, NOT DECAFE coffee, not your Denny’s truck driver weak as brown water cup of fake coffee, not your establishment friendly cup of coffee, Not your FBI coffee, Not FAKE Herbal coffee substitute, but a real cup of coffee, not your farmer brothers dinner crap, not made in America for Americans, not safe for work, not your Starbucks average expensive overpriced ****** corporate chain cup of coffee, Not pretentious, Not White House approved, not State Department safe, nuclear, Not Patriotic, operatic, Peets’s coffee approved,

paranoid, pornographic, psychotic, pontific, politically aware, rapping, rhyming, right here, right now in River city, rock and roll up the Yazoo, sad, sadistic, sarcastic, sassy, satanic, schizoid, *******, silly, ****, smarmy, smelly, smooth, snarky, snarling, stupid, stinking, sweet as honey, sweat inducing, symphonic, Trump can’t handle this coffee, vengeful, Wagnerian, wicked, with nutmeg and cinnamon swirls, with a hint of stevia, with a hint of vanilla, with a hint of ***, with a hint of whisky, with a hint of cherry, with a hint of fruit overtones, with a hint of drugs spicing up the coffee, spendific, speeding, splendid, superior accept no substitutes, survived the Vietnam war, the Iraq war, the Afghan war, the first and Second Korean war, World War 11, the war on poverty, the war on drugs, the war on black people, the ****** revolution,

Soulful as a summer’s night in MOTOWN- James Brown approved, TOP approved, Berkeley approved, the coffee that Jimmy Hendrix drank before he died, the coffee that Elvis drank on his last breakfast, the coffee that Barry White crooned as he drank his cup of coffee – and the coffee that made the white boy play stand up and play that funky music, the coffee that made Jonny B Goode play his guitar, and made Jonny bet the devil his soul after he drank his morning cup of righteous coffee and the coffee that make the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll, the coffee your mother warned you against drinking, the coffee that Napoleon drank when he became the Emperor of all Europe, the Coffee that Beethoven drank when he wrote the Ninth symphony, the coffee that Mozart drank as he wrote his last symphony, the coffee that Lincoln drank before he was killed, the Hemingway drank before he killed himself, the coffee that started the 60’s, and ended the 20th century,

the coffee that Lenin drank as he plotted revolution, the coffee that ****** and Stalin drank with FDR as they divided up the world after World War 11, the cup that JFK drank before he was blown away, the coffee Jerry drinks while driving in cars with random celebrities and political figures, the coffee that Jon Stewart drinks before he goes on an epic take down of some foolish politico, the cup of Arabic coffee that Sadaam drank the day he was executed, the coffee that GW and Cheney drank when they bombed Baghdad, the Indian cup of coffee that Bid Laden drank before 9-11 and just before the seals blew his *** to hell, the cup of coffee that Tiger Woods drank with his mistresses while playing a 3, 000 dollar round of golf at Sandy Lane golf course in Barbados, the last legal drug that does what drugs should do, the cup of coffee that Obama drank when he became President, Vietnamese, Vienna brew, wacky, whimsical,

Whisky Tango Foxtrot, wild, weird, wonderful, WOW, Yabba dabba doo! Yada Yada yada Zappa’s favorite cup of cosmic coffee, and Zorro’s last cup of coffee, Good to the last drop rolled into one simple cup of hot coffee   
As I pound down that first cup of coffee
And fire up my synaptic nerve endings with endless supplies
Of caffeine induced neuron enhancing chemicals

I face the dawning day with trepidation and mind-numbing fear
I turn on the TV and watch the smarmy newscasters in their perfect hair

Lying through their perfect blazing white teeth
about the great success the government is having
Following the great leader's latest pronouncements

I want to scream
and shoot the TV
and run out side

Shouting
Stop the world!
I want to get
off this ******* crazy planet"

The earth does not care a whit
about my attitude problem

It merely shrugs
and moves around the Sun
In its appointed daily run

the universe whispers
in my ear
time to drink more coffee
for an attitude adjustment

And I sit down
The madness dissipating a bit
And enjoy my second cup
Of heaven and hell
In my morning cup of Joe

Coffee Revolutions



coffee cup
Coffee led to the American Revolution<span
As patriots drank coffee
To rebel against
the aristocratic English tea

Coffee started the London Stock Market
And started the gossip mills running
Every great invention
Was fed by coffee's sweet brew
sweet allure

All the great thinkers
All the great leaders
All were enslaved
to coffee's magic

I sing my praises
Of the great
glorious coffee lady

Long may she continue
To be my sweet companion

Long may coffee continue
To rule my heart
And set my heart
on fire

Ode to Coffee



Mistress of sacred love
Sacred lady of desire

You start my day
Setting my heart on fire
With your dark delicious brew 

And throughout the day
Whenever the mean old blues come by
You chase them away

With your bittersweet ambrosial brew
Every time I inhale your witch's brew

I am filled with power, light and love
And everything is al right Jack
If only for a few fleeting minutes

I love you oh coffee goddess
In all your magical forms

In the dark coffee of the dawning day
In the sizzling coffee in the mid morning break
In the afternoon siesta break
And in the post dinner desert drink

I love you my coffee mistress
You are my refuge
From this horrid world

And you are my secret lover
Never disappoint me, ever
I've never had a bad cup
Of that I can be sure

Even the dismal coffee
Served at Denny's at 3 am
Is still sweet loving coffee

Even the farmer brother's diner coffee
Excites me and gets me going
Asking for another cup of divine delight

Coffee always is there
It is always on and piping hot
With hidden dark secrets
Swirling in its liquid essence

Coffee is my last vice
My only legal vice left

Coffee does not cheat on me
It is always faithful, always true
It does not turn on its friends

And all it asks in return
Is that you come back
Cup after cup after cup

A good cup of coffee
Is a little bit of heaven
In a cup of dark liquid hell

Coffee is like a drug
But a good drug that does what is should
And never complains

It does not get grouchy
It does not hurt you

It does not make you crazy
But allows the muse to come out
And play with it

Coffee led to the American Revolution
As patriots drank coffee
To rebel against the aristocratic English tea

Coffee started the London Stock market
And started the gossips mills running

Every great invention
Was fed by coffee's sweet brew
sweet allure

All the great thinkers
All the great leaders
All were enslaved to coffee's magic

Yeah
I sing my praises
Of the great glorious coffee lady

Long may she continue
To be my sweat companion

Long may coffee continue
To rule my heart
And set my heart on fire

I love thee
Mistress coffee
And sometimes I think
You love me too

No More Coffee Blues








I love coffee
Always have

And coffee has loved me back
But lately I have soured on her
Soured on the whole coffee scene

On the harshness
of the morning brew
And the promises it makes

As I sip of its nectar
Drawn into its lair

Drinking drop by drop
As the caffeine takes over

Rewriting my every nerve
Turning me into a slave
For its perverted pleasure

Yes I love coffee
But I am afraid

Coffee is a harsh mistress
Demanding so much of me

Promising the sun
And delivering the moon

As I drink her swill
Deepening under her influence

I have the coffee blues
Can’t live without her
Can’t live with her

I try
But tea does not cut it
Not really

***** does not do it
At least not in the morning

Yoga is not enough of a buzz
Nor is the runner’s high

And I am afraid deadly afraid of *******
And speed and drugs and energy drinks

And so I remain a slave to coffee
My only legal drug

As I sip another
and fall under
her seductive spread

Once more failing my resolve
To skip coffee for that day
That morning that moment

I shall never be free of her spell
Ever and she knows it
As she beckons me
Every morning with her intoxicating smell

And I come to her
and drink her brew

And become her slave
again and again

Coffee Ya Du





must drink coffee
have every day
the morning dawns
drinking my coffee as I yawn

Morning cup of coffee 



every morning
I drink my coffee
as I contemplate 
the dawning day

watching the news anchors
blather on and on
drinking my coffee
thinking of life

and my coffee
consumes me
overwhelms me
and at time controls me

after all coffee is a drug
and I am her slave
from time to time

Drinking Coffee in the Morning



in the morning
dangerous mood
felling deranged
watching the news

trigger warning
you are ******* dude
end of the world
the end times come

I drink coffee
in the morning



Coffee *** Killed





His wife has banned my use
by my owner
says he makes too much
of a mess when he uses me

it is not his fault
I want to say
but being a coffee ***
can not speak

and so I am abandoned
thrown out into the trash

and feel very sad
for my owner

who was my friend
he liked me

he keep me going
and I did my job

providing him
with fresh coffee

doing my coffee *** duty
and now it is over

Drinking My Coffee


drinking coffee

drinking my coffee
early in the cool morning
thinking life is fine

everything will be okay
after I drink my coffee

morning coffee



morning coffee

dawning sun 











coffee MGur Poem


coffee

I pray to the coffee gods
every cup of coffee
is like a sacrament to me

I pray as I drink my coffee
that it will fill me
with wisdom

and find peace
with my coffee

as I drink
my devotion

Hot coffee


cup of coffee


take coffee with you
Hot hot coffee, makes my day -

Must drink My daily coffee, as the morning dawns - 

With out my morning coffee

in me,  I feel nothing at all -

Electrified Hot Coffee



coffee is the drug of choice
nothing else will do it
as I drink coffee
Electrified
Hot Coffee

Hot Coffee and Cake


coffee
coffee is the drug of choice
electrified circuits
as I drink coffee
coffee and cake



Coffee Patina



coffee
hot coffee
hot Hellish Heaven
Essence of coffee
the rest of the coffee poems can be found at
Steve Jun 2018
Tired of living in a false paradise of consumption,
suffering everyday our labored prostitution,
trade in your hours for a handful of scraps,
smile while your master puts the cigar out on your back,
this is the workers symphony,
aching joints, aching psyche,
smothered with whiskey to **** the pain,
our autonomous freedom we'll never regain,
slave till you die, laugh till it hurts, your meaning in life, to merely survive,
collect your checks week after week, creative minds stomped out, just smile and drink,
be a good slave except your fate,
it's just the way it is boy get back in your place,
we gravel in dispair, they spit in our face,
we waste our lives away,
on our hands and knees we just smile and drink,
thinking about breaking these chains,
it's punishable by law,
authority laughs when you die slow for your keep,
with your eyes wide shut,
don't wake your slumber,  
it's all a bad dream,
just go back to sleep,
and forget life's blunder
Nigel Morgan Jul 2013
It was their first time, their first time ever. Of course neither would admit to it, and neither knew, about the other that is, that they had never done this before. Life had sheltered them, and they had sheltered from life.

Their biographies put them in their sixties. Never mind the Guardian magazine proclaiming sixty to be the new fifty. Albert and Sally were resolutely sixty – ish. To be fair, neither looked their age, but then they had led such sheltered lives, hadn’t they. He had a mother, she had a father, and that pretty much wrapped it up. They had spent respective lives being their parents’ companions, then carers, and now, suddenly this. This intimacy, and it being their first time.

When their contemporaries were befriending and marrying and procreating, and home-making and care-giving and child-minding, and developing their first career, being forced to start a second, overseeing teenagers and suddenly being parents again, but grandparents this time – with evenings and some weekends allowed – Albert and Sally had spent their time writing. They wrote poetry in their respective spaces, at respective tables, in almost solitude, Sally against the onslaught of TV noise as her father became deaf. Albert had the refuge of his childhood bedroom and the table he’d studied at – O levels, A levels, a degree and a further degree, and a little later on that PhD. Poetry had been his friend, his constant companion, rarely fickle, always there when needed. If Albert met a nice-looking woman in the library and lost his heart to her, he would write verse to quench not so much desire of a physical nature, but a desire to meet and to know and to love, and to live the dream of being a published poet.

Oh Sally, such a treasure; a kind heart, a sweet nature, a lovely disposition. Confused at just seventeen when suddenly she seemed to mature, properly, when school friends had been through all that at thirteen. She was passed over, and then suddenly, her body became something she could hardly deal with, and shyness enveloped her because her mother would say such things . . . but, but she had her bookshelf, her grandfather’s, and his books (Keats and Wordsworth saved from the skip) and then her books. Ted Hughes, Dylan Thomas (oh to have been Kaitlin, so wild and free and uninhibited and whose mother didn’t care), Stevie Smith, U.E. Fanthorpe, and then, having taken her OU degree, the lure of the small presses and the feminist canon, the subversive and the down-right weird.

Albert and Sally knew the comfort of settling ageing parents for the night and opening (and firmly closing) the respective doors of their own rooms, in Albert’s case his bedroom, with Sally, a box room in which her mother had once kept her sewing machine. Sally resolutely did not sew, nor did she knit. She wrote, constantly, in notebook after notebook, in old diaries, on discarded paper from the office of the charity she worked for. Always in conversation with herself as she moulded the poem, draft after draft after draft. And then? She went once to writers’ workshop at the local library, but never again. Who were these strange people who wrote only about themselves? Confessional poets. And she? Did she never write about herself? Well, occasionally, out of frustration sometimes, to remind herself she was a woman, who had not married, had not borne children, had only her father’s friends (who tried to force their unmarried sons on her). She did write a long sequence of poems (in bouts-rimés) about the man she imagined she would meet one day and how life might be, and of course would never be. No, Sally, mostly wrote about things, the mystery and beauty and wonder of things you could touch, see or hear, not imagine or feel for. She wrote about poppies in a field, penguins in a painting (Birmingham Art Gallery), the seashore (one glorious week in North Norfolk twenty years ago – and she could still close her eyes and be there on Holkham beach).  Publication? Her first collection went the rounds and was returned, or not, as is the wont of publishers. There was one comment: keep writing. She had kept writing.

Tide Marks

The sea had given its all to the land
and retreated to a far distant curve.
I stand where the waves once broke.

Only the marks remain of its coming,
its going. The underlying sand at my feet
is a desert of dunes seen from the air.

Beyond the wet strand lies, a vast mirror
to a sky laundered full of haze, full of blue,
rinsed distances and shining clouds.


When Albert entered his bedroom he drew the curtains, even on a summer’s evening when still light. He turned on his CD player choosing Mozart, or Bach, sometimes Debussy. Those three masters of the piano were his favoured companions in the act of writing. He would and did listen to other music, but he had to listen with attention, not have music ‘on’ as a background. That Mozart Rondo in A minor K511, usually the first piece he would listen to, was a recording of Andras Schiff from a concert at the Edinburgh Festival. You could hear the atmosphere of a capacity audience, such a quietness that the music seemed to feed and enter and then surround and become wondrous.

He’d had a history teacher in his VI form years who allowed him the run of his LP collection. It had been revelation after revelation, and that had been when the poetry began. They had listened to Tristan & Isolde into the early hours. It was late June, A levels over, a small celebration with Wagner, a bottle of champagne and a bowl of cherries. As the final disc ended they had sat in silence for – he could not remember how long, only from his deeply comfortable chair he had watched the sky turn and turn lighter over the tall pine trees outside. And then, his dear teacher, his one true friend, a young man only a few years out of Cambridge, rose and went to his record collection and chose The Third Symphony by Vaughan-Williams, his Pastoral Symphony, his farewell to those fallen in the Great War  – so many friends and music-makers. As the second movement began Albert wept, and left abruptly, without the thanks his teacher deserved. He went home, to the fury of his father who imagined Albert had been propositioned and assaulted by his kind teacher – and would personally see to it that he would never teach again. Albert was so shocked at this declaration he barely ever spoke to his father again. By eight o’clock that June morning he was a poet.

For Ralph

A sea voyage in the arms of Iseult
and now the bowl of cherries
is empty and the Perrier Jouet
just a stain on the glass.

Dawn is a mottled sky
resting above the dark pines.
Late June and roses glimmer
in a deep sea of green.

In the still near darkness,
and with the volume low,
we listen to an afterword:
a Pastoral Symphony for the fallen.

From its opening I know I belong
to this music and it belongs to me.
Wholly. It whelms me over
and my face is wet with tears.


There is so much to a name, Sally thought, Albert, a name from the Victorian era. In the 1950s whoever named their first born Albert? Now Sally, that was very fifties, comfortably post-war. It was a bright and breezy, summer holiday kind of name. Saying it made you smile (try it). But Light-foot (with a hyphen) she could do without, and had hoped to be without it one day. She was not light-footed despite being slim and well proportioned. Her feet were too big and she did not move gracefully. Clothes had always been such a nuisance; an indicator of uncertainty, of indecision. Clothes said who you were, and she was? a tallish woman who hid her still firm shape and good legs in loose tops and not quite right linen trousers (from M & S). Hair? Still a colour, not yet grey, she was a shale blond with grey eyes. She had felt Albert’s ‘look’ when they met in The Barton, when they had been gathered together like show dogs by the wonderful, bubbly (I know exactly what to wear – and say) Annabel. They had arrived at Totnes by the same train and had not given each other a second glance on the platform. Too apprehensive, scared really, of what was to come. But now, like show dogs, they looked each other over.

‘This is an experiment for us,’ said the festival director, ‘New voices, but from a generation so seldom represented here as ‘emerging’, don’t you think?’

You mean, thought Albert, it’s all a bit quaint this being published and winning prizes for the first time – in your sixties. Sally was somewhere else altogether, wondering if she really could bring off the vocal character of a Palestinian woman she was to give voice to in her poem about Ramallah.

Incredibly, Albert or Sally had never read their poems to an audience, and here they were, about to enter Dartington’s Great Hall, with its banners and vast fireplace, to read their work to ‘a capacity audience’ (according to Annabel – all the tickets went weeks ago). What were Carcanet thinking about asking them to be ‘visible’ at this seriously serious event? Annabel parroted on and on about who’d stood on this stage before them in previous years, and there was such interest in their work, both winning prizes The Forward and The Eliot. Yet these fledgling authors had remained stoically silent as approaches from literary journalists took them almost daily by surprise. Wanting to know their backstory. Why so long a wait for recognition? Neither had sought it. Neither had wanted it. Or rather they’d stopped hoping for it until . . . well that was a story all of its own, and not to be told here.

Curiosity had beckoned both of them to read each other’s work. Sally remembered Taking Heart arriving in its Amazon envelope. She brought it to her writing desk and carefully opened it.  On the back cover it said Albert Loosestrife is a lecturer in History at the University of Northumberland. Inside, there was a life, and Sally had learnt to read between the lines. Albert had seen Sally’s slim volume Surface and Depth in Blackwell’s. It seemed so slight, the poems so short, but when he got on the Metro to Whitesands Bay and opened the bag he read and became mesmerised.  Instead of going home he had walked down to the front, to his favourite bench with the lighthouse on his left and read it through, twice.

Standing in the dark hallway ready to be summoned to read Albert took out his running order from his jacket pocket, flawlessly typed on his Elite portable typewriter (a 21st birthday present from his mother). He saw the titles and wondered if his voice could give voice to these intensely personal poems: the horror of his mother’s illness and demise, his loneliness, his fear of being gay, the nastiness and bullying experienced in his minor university post, his observations of acquaintances and complete strangers, train rides to distant cities to ‘gather’ material, visit to galleries and museums, homages to authors, artists and composers he loved. His voice echoed in his head. Could he manage the microphone? Would the after-reading discussion be bearable? He looked at Sally thinking for a moment he could not be in better company. Her very name cheered him. Somehow names could do that. He imagined her walking on a beach with him, in conversation. Yes, he’d like that, and right now. He reckoned they might have much to share with each other, after they’d discussed poetry of course. He felt a warm glow and smiled his best smile as she in astonishing synchronicity smiled at him. The door opened and applause beckoned.
Madison Brewer Aug 2011
I wrote you a story, a sonnet, and a symphony the other day,
but I forgot them.
I meant to give them to you,
but one look in your eyes, and words failed me.
I couldn't remember what I had written,
nor did it matter.
I knew that each word, each note, I had written while not in your presence
couldn't suffice.
I hadn't been able to embody every feeling, every sensation,
that I am taught over and over again each time I see you.
I had thought my story, my sonnet, and my symphony would do a fair job,
but, without your physical, visual, and verbal influence,
my words and melodies could not reach the magnitude I had hoped.
My imagination, and, similarly, my memories,
do you no justice.
I wrote you a story, a sonnet, and a symphony the other day,
but upon seeing you, I forgot them, so
I wrote you this instead,
to describe how difficult it is to be away from you.
Trevor Gates Jan 2013
It’s good to see you again.

We’ve been expecting you
Please
Sit.

Now…

Lights!
Orchestra!
Curtains!


Bringing forth nighttime lore, the charming chamberlain of Libertine plays
Summoning forth demonic myths, the illustrious weaver of unspoken entities
Dancing on memories, the enchanting fairy of skeletal trees
Sizzling behind magenta curtains, the voluptuous seductress of throbbing blood
Laughing at the potluck, the swollen headmaster of flab
Killing in the alleys, the inscrutable Ripper of Jack
Fornicating in the wild in the dragon’s keep, the ***** of Babylon

Swell the strings!
Blast the horns!
The cast is assembled

The symphony of sensational voyeurism
Yes, you in delight
Don’t deny your
Sacred rite
That’s right



Join my dear

Don’t be shy

Ascend the stairs

And come on stage



Good



Take my hand and venture now through the broken mirror of Assyria
The dunes of sands
Mounded and layered beneath the crisp blue sky

Not a single cloud
Not a single soul

Except for us

My dear
Feel the sand

It’s cool to the touch

The wind encircles your lush hair

The air feels and smells like the breeze of the sea

Where Athenian, white houses line the shores of this desert-sea world


Look up into the blue sky

Witness the open dome in the center

Above our head


Past the blues sky dome is the space between spaces.

Orange silk stars and red trimmed planets
Violet smeared nebulae and green morphing galaxy clusters

Float up to the top of the open space dome in the center of the sky

Reach out and extend your hand

As you touch, the area between this world and the next, ripples spread out from the imagery of the universe.

You touch water in the form of visual, ethereal paradise

The ripples of time expand like the vibrations of sound across the sky

Painting a new canvas of dripping oils and melting clocks



Close your eyes.

Your body hovers in the air

Far from the ground

And far from the person everybody knows


No matter how much a person perceives to know about another, there will be a part us that no one will ever comprehend.



Because to completely absorb the entirety of another life

memories

personality

thought process

dreams

Soul



Is incomprehensible

Inconceivable

Futile



A new world attrition
Through masturbatory perdition

A raging, unquenchable and suffering desire that plagues

The bold

The young

The old

The naive

The smart

The swift

The innocent

The ******

The addicts

The self-proclaimed purists

The self-proclaimed “good people”

“innocent people”

“trusted people”



We are all what we live for: a lie

A lie that consumes the norm

With invisible abnormalities

We are the blind

The deaf

The mute

The chained

The ignored

The punished

The poor

The dumb

The frightened

The dead



The end





Thank you for being here once again.  None of this couldn’t be possible without: Clive Barker, Iron Maiden, headphones, batman, duplexes, Salvador Dali, The hour of the Wolf, folding chairs, wool blankets, Silicone *******, chocolate icing, Bruce Campbell, 28 Days Later, true love, true grit, The seventh seal, black widow spiders, Vishnu and anyone else I forgot to mention.



Please come again.
Yes, yes I know you are probably asking, "How many of these entries are there?" . I couldn't say really, but hey stick around and found out. Let's see what my mind has to offer.  Probably not much, but is it quality or quantity that should out weigh each other? Boing! Hey look, Pizza.

No need to fret, protesters outside my window, this is now a declaration of war to your lives (or is it?), just a free verse/form writing exercise.  Till we meet again my Peeps, minions and droogs.
Juliesen Night Mar 2014
Bluebirds dance gracefully,
Cardinals sing a symphony.
Announcing the return,
Of thee.

Righteous may be thy soul,
Kind may be thy heart.
What we ask of you,
Where art thou heart?

Harps ring beyond the flowers,
Of scarlet lovers.
Might the rose be thy veil?
Thy weddings renewal.

Bonded by Matrimony.
It shall be so.
Logan Robertson Aug 2018
Twas the night before
Hawaii islands on the radar
A monster opened the door
It shoulders a storied scar

Of the last time, it hit its mark
Rearing its ugly head, ahead of pace
As the eye looms '82 in the dark
Wrinkles on this  eve sit sadly in boldface

Kauai sat once in unnatured infamy
It sunny shores hit once by the beast
Clouds of villains played in that symphony
With the next generation looking to feast

As the residence brace for the worst
Of the monster stepping on its paradise
With category four winds and cloudburst
The hope is that the monster plays nice

With the Aloha Spirit preserved with leis
In place of bold headlines of strung wrath
Hawaii can pray rays of light in the coming days
Willing the monster to take a different path

Logan Robertson

8/23/2018
This honor catches me by surprise, so much that I can't wait for the next dawn, sunrise, and all the days that follow. Thank you. Thank you for all the well wishes and support. It means looking at the sunrise, a new dawn, with newfound exuberance and eagerness.

To my friends and relatives on Oahu, I pray. Update-monster played nice. Outstanding was its piano play. Storm went from a 5,4,3,2,1 ... miss. With the Aloha Spirit preserved with leis
In place of bold headlines of strung wrath. Thank you.
Daniel Quigley Nov 2017
By the sill sit still;
Listen to the wash on the roof;
Specks and sheets form a symphony
so complete to hush you quiet,
Even still.

An inundation.
This libation to parched earth has
been a meditation since birth;
to ponder under the pitter-patter
hiss and swish of exponential scales
At the wrongness of raindrops in a sunbeam.

Sit still, brood like the clouds that came
to darken a June day, so silent they gathered
over a land hard with memory,
With fear for passing years and
worries that grew like weeds in summer showers.

Brief as thought these drops like jewels
are set ablaze then strike the dirt; done.
They flash for an instant in time,
with no way back to an azure sky.

There is no telling the distance,
How high these clouds climb.
Just the sound of falling rain,
Listen.
Jonah Long Apr 2016
Organs play music
Your heart plays a symphony
Full of emotion
I beg inside my soul to have you.
I don't love you.  
I want to feel passion, desire,  and the warmth of another body pressing against me
I could grab any man I wanted, but I want you.
I see your brown hair
let me run my fingers through, just once
Your eyes
soft earth
Your lips
pink lilacs
And all I want is your body
Which is very saddening.
To only want to use someone, then toss them aside like trash
How can you?
And still fall asleep at night without thinking about a face wet with tears
your fault
I simply want to do to you
What you have done
To All the women before me,

The same song as a trickery

I want you to fall in love with me
an instrument meets the music
I want you to hold me close and kiss me, as you share your fears and truths.
a melody plays softly
I want you to believe in love because of me
Think of me,  breathe me,  and miss me when we are not together
accelerato tempo

Until one day you meet me in a corner booth at our favorite restaurant, and I rip your heart to shreds

Look,  I never loved you. I lied.
I used you to get what I want.
You are a pathetic, self-serving dung heap that only thinks about himself. You wooed me, I pretended to like you, so I could dig under your thick facade of masculinity, and discover your sensitive side. I know what you are--man *****--and I enjoyed using you. You can lie to everyone, every woman from this point on, but ten years from now,  when you are married to wife number four and you are waiting for her to come home and she never does,  I want you to crawl into the bed you made and bawl like the whining,  sniveling baby you truly become at night when no one else is around you.  I hope 'lonely' presses you down so hard it hurts to breathe. And maybe then you might turn into a different man or at least your miniscule brain will have an inkling of true heartbreak. Doubtful though--I win.  You lose


Then I get up and walk away from you,  ignoring any pleas and ****** slurs.

*Caesura
"Underneath the monster lies a man, under the man lurks nothing at all. "--Katherine

Caesura is a musical term for a sudden stop in music-I discovered this new word and I started thinking of things that stop suddenly... which led me to this.  Hope you like it!!! Thank you to all who read what I write,  it lifts my spirit to know that I am seen and heard

— The End —