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Ron Sanders Feb 2020
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
1764

The saddest noise, the sweetest noise,
  The maddest noise that grows,—
The birds, they make it in the spring,
  At night’s delicious close.

Between the March and April line—
  That magical frontier
Beyond which summer hesitates,
  Almost too heavenly near.

It makes us think of all the dead
  That sauntered with us here,
By separation’s sorcery
  Made cruelly more dear.

It makes us think of what we had,
  And what we now deplore.
We almost wish those siren throats
  Would go and sing no more.

An ear can break a human heart
  As quickly as a spear,
We wish the ear had not a heart
  So dangerously near.
Part I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part III

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part IV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part V

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part VI

First Voice

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

Second Voice

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

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

First Voice

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

Second Voice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pilot and the Pilot’s boy,
I heard them coming fast:
Dear Lord i
a lion out of the plains would be sick
walking tall in a marsh
with mud in his pretty mane?
no i don't think so.
fighter in the wrong land
fury in the wrong fist
turned inwards instead of to the wildebeest
cloven hooves at his ***
instead of teeth at their throats
proud proud lion
never be a gangster here
pull up that saggy skin and face the facts
you're in the wrong town now, kitten
more about me feeling wholly  out of place, though this one is delivered  with a more upbeat tone.
Chaotic Melodic Aug 2010
Wet
We sit on the beach and smoke,
Secrets drizzling down our throats,
Drilling for oil on the ocean floor
Where the neon jellies live.

The words get caught up in our throats,
We slither like eels in the coral reef
Where the neon jellies live,
And mate by swimming in paint.

We slither like eels in the coral reef
And ignore how wet we are,
As we mate by swimming in paint,
Greens and blues melting together.

We never care how wet we are
Or how much sea we swallow,
Our bellies swell like open eyes,
Bursting and spraying our faces

Where we can't help but swallow
What we spit at our faces,
From the oil we drilled from the ocean floor
Where the neon jellies live

And die while washed up on the shore.
© Cory McQueen
The match started with control going from one team to the other kicks being made and players jumping on the ball hoping to score the first try
And then it happened the first penalty going to Queensland and kept it for a while but couldn't make it over the line
NSW took the ball and not much later got a penalty oh yeah hoping they will break through, they charged and charged right to the line and the maroons stole the ball ready to bring it to the other side forcing NSW into defence
And the mistake happened The blues got the ball and kicked it way way back the maroons grabbed the ball and kept them it in the defence and kicked it up forced the error and gained another penalty to them
The maroons were running up ready to break the defence and kicked it through and the blues brought the ball to the attack
Still no score still no score
But both teams are putting up a fight and then the maroons got the ball and with great offence
Dived over for the maroons first try and the crowd roared ever so loudly and smith converts it to make the maroons have a 6-0 lead and the XXXX is looking ever so sweet
But they have to get back to the game and the blues sent the kick to them and ran down to the tryline, only to have the try dissallowed and for the maroons it was still 6-0 but the blues had possession of the ball and they kicked it up and possession went back to Queensland and they ran a bit and kicked it up and the blues grabbed the ball, then they kicked it and straight back to Queensland it goes and they kept it with them for a while
A scrum came with the blues winning it and ran a while then kicked right down the Maroons throat and after a bit they kicked it, the 6-0.lead was looking good after the ball went loose for NSW and Queensland did a kick and chase with the blues looking to grab the ball
They did but not for long and after a few passes the maroons were running and passing and then dived in to score the maroons 2nd try, to make the score 10-0 to Queensland
And smith yet again adds the extra's and suddenly the maroons were looking very good and yes, the score changed to 12-0
After both teams getting a hand on the ball? It was the blues who gained possession but they lost it and this was making NSW very angry, I wonder what
The people in the clubs in NSW are thinking after the maroons good, then the battle between the both teams as the tackling gave the blues a penalty but after a lengthily run the maroons got a penalty and took
The ball over to the NSW defensive area and then they kicked it and it went into touch
And the blues got the ball and lost it down the field and the maroons ran down and put the ball down but it was a forward pass and then the blues ran with the ball right to the other side but Queensland yet again looking too good and then sent out a high bomb deep in the nsw end and the blues ran it down but was tackled and yes the maroons go into the half time break with a 12-0 lead
And I wonder what will happen in the 2nd half
And now the two teams are entering the field and the crowd is totally cheering and the maroons are kicking off and it went straight down the blues throats and went straight into the maroons defence line and they kicked it up and now the maroons have the ball but made a small error forcing the blues to steal it from them and after a few runs the blues lost it and the maroons grabbed the ball
And ran staring toward the line but lost the ball right in front of the blues defence line and the blues started to run it down by passing it a few times and then made a woeful kick to put the maroons back into attack and then after a comedy of errors the blues kept the ball and continued to run toward their line and then the blues kicked it down and Dugan scored the blues first try to make the score 12-4 to the maroons and Maloney added the extras to make the score 12-6 and they started to cuddle each other
And then the kick off going straight down the throats of the blues and ran the ball way past some of the defenders untill the maroons got the ball and lost the ball right in front of their own line and the blues are doing a great job keeping the ball with them and passes were being made and the blues were looking strong untill they lost the ball and the maroons got the ball back but after a few tackles gained a penalty and kicked it into touch and then ran it down to their defence line but the great blues defence line
Forced the ball into touch and then the blues won the scrum and ran it down passing and passing and kicked it down the maroons throats and now Queensland have the ball
And after a few tackles the maroons booted it high but nsw
Grabbed the ball and after a few more tackles the blues kicked it high and Queensland grabbed the ball and then moments later the maroons ran down to the try line and planted a try and the umpire went upstairs but it was still a try and that makes Queensland lead to 16-6 with a kick to come and things are looking great for the maroons by geez by jingle by crickey as mike Gibson is speaking to me from the grave
The kick was waved away and after a few plays the blues find themselves with the ball and they became close to the try line and the maroons got the ball of them and ran down the field and kicked it and the blues picked up the ball but the maroons bundled him into touch and forced the blues to do a kick straight down the maroons throats and after a few runs and passes the maroons scored a great try to make the maroons lead even more dangerous for the blues at 20-6
And smith converts it to make the score 22-6 and suddenly the maroons were looking dangerous as the song goes
Hold on tight
I know it is a little bit dangerous
I got what it takes to make ends meet
And yes, the maroons have definately got what it takes and after a few tackles the maroons knocked the ball on and the blues find themselves with the ball abs ran it down and took it right to the maroons but then they handed it over to Queensland and then they made some posession but a silly mistake forced NSW to take the ball but it was intercepted but it was forced into the scrum and the blues Regained the ball and then made some silly mistakes to give the ball back to Queensland and after a few passes the maroons kicked the ball into touch but things are looking bad for the blues as they gained the ball back,
Will they score here and after a few passes they knock the ball on and gave the ball back to Queensland and the maroons won the scrum and started to attack the NSW line and every member of Queensland in the crowd are jumping up and cheering after getting a penalty from a blues error but it was no good but who cares because the score was 22-6 and then they got the ball back and ran down the clock and at full time
Queensland won the game against the hapless blues by 22-6 and yes I reckon there will be a XXXX in the bar tonight but if you go for the blues beware because tonight wasn't your night
And now we draw the final curtain
And the blues lose once more
Yes, the maroons are the victors congrats congratulations yeah
Congratulations and celebrations
You see the maroons are the victory team again
What went wrong with the blues losing 22 points to ****** 6
The maroons are the champions my friend
They kept on fighting to the end
Maroons are the champions
Maroons are the champions
Maroons are the champions
Of the state of origin for 2017
Bye for now and well done to the maroons
I

The Trumpet-Vine Arbour

The throats of the little red trumpet-flowers are wide open,
And the clangour of brass beats against the hot sunlight.
They bray and blare at the burning sky.
Red! Red! Coarse notes of red,
Trumpeted at the blue sky.
In long streaks of sound, molten metal,
The vine declares itself.
Clang! -- from its red and yellow trumpets.
Clang! -- from its long, nasal trumpets,
Splitting the sunlight into ribbons, tattered and shot with noise.

I sit in the cool arbour, in a green-and-gold twilight.
It is very still, for I cannot hear the trumpets,
I only know that they are red and open,
And that the sun above the arbour shakes with heat.
My quill is newly mended,
And makes fine-drawn lines with its point.
Down the long, white paper it makes little lines,
Just lines -- up -- down -- criss-cross.
My heart is strained out at the pin-point of my quill;
It is thin and writhing like the marks of the pen.
My hand marches to a squeaky tune,
It marches down the paper to a squealing of fifes.
My pen and the trumpet-flowers,
And Washington's armies away over the smoke-tree to the Southwest.
'Yankee Doodle,' my Darling! It is you against the British,
Marching in your ragged shoes to batter down King George.
What have you got in your hat? Not a feather, I wager.
Just a hay-straw, for it is the harvest you are fighting for.
Hay in your hat, and the whites of their eyes for a target!
Like Bunker Hill, two years ago, when I watched all day from the house-top
Through Father's spy-glass.
The red city, and the blue, bright water,
And puffs of smoke which you made.
Twenty miles away,
Round by Cambridge, or over the Neck,
But the smoke was white -- white!
To-day the trumpet-flowers are red -- red --
And I cannot see you fighting,
But old Mr. Dimond has fled to Canada,
And Myra sings 'Yankee Doodle' at her milking.
The red throats of the trumpets bray and clang in the sunshine,
And the smoke-tree puffs dun blossoms into the blue air.


II


The City of Falling Leaves

Leaves fall,
Brown leaves,
Yellow leaves streaked with brown.
They fall,
Flutter,
Fall again.
The brown leaves,
And the streaked yellow leaves,
Loosen on their branches
And drift slowly downwards.
One,
One, two, three,
One, two, five.
All Venice is a falling of Autumn leaves --
Brown,
And yellow streaked with brown.

'That sonnet, Abate,
Beautiful,
I am quite exhausted by it.
Your phrases turn about my heart
And stifle me to swooning.
Open the window, I beg.
Lord! What a strumming of fiddles and mandolins!
'Tis really a shame to stop indoors.
Call my maid, or I will make you lace me yourself.
Fie, how hot it is, not a breath of air!
See how straight the leaves are falling.
Marianna, I will have the yellow satin caught up with silver fringe,
It peeps out delightfully from under a mantle.
Am I well painted to-day, 'caro Abate mio'?
You will be proud of me at the 'Ridotto', hey?
Proud of being 'Cavalier Servente' to such a lady?'
'Can you doubt it, 'Bellissima Contessa'?
A pinch more rouge on the right cheek,
And Venus herself shines less . . .'
'You bore me, Abate,
I vow I must change you!
A letter, Achmet?
Run and look out of the window, Abate.
I will read my letter in peace.'
The little black slave with the yellow satin turban
Gazes at his mistress with strained eyes.
His yellow turban and black skin
Are gorgeous -- barbaric.
The yellow satin dress with its silver flashings
Lies on a chair
Beside a black mantle and a black mask.
Yellow and black,
Gorgeous -- barbaric.
The lady reads her letter,
And the leaves drift slowly
Past the long windows.
'How silly you look, my dear Abate,
With that great brown leaf in your wig.
Pluck it off, I beg you,
Or I shall die of laughing.'

A yellow wall
Aflare in the sunlight,
Chequered with shadows,
Shadows of vine leaves,
Shadows of masks.
Masks coming, printing themselves for an instant,
Then passing on,
More masks always replacing them.
Masks with tricorns and rapiers sticking out behind
Pursuing masks with plumes and high heels,
The sunlight shining under their insteps.
One,
One, two,
One, two, three,
There is a thronging of shadows on the hot wall,
Filigreed at the top with moving leaves.
Yellow sunlight and black shadows,
Yellow and black,
Gorgeous -- barbaric.
Two masks stand together,
And the shadow of a leaf falls through them,
Marking the wall where they are not.
From hat-tip to shoulder-tip,
From elbow to sword-hilt,
The leaf falls.
The shadows mingle,
Blur together,
Slide along the wall and disappear.
Gold of mosaics and candles,
And night blackness lurking in the ceiling beams.
Saint Mark's glitters with flames and reflections.
A cloak brushes aside,
And the yellow of satin
Licks out over the coloured inlays of the pavement.
Under the gold crucifixes
There is a meeting of hands
Reaching from black mantles.
Sighing embraces, bold investigations,
Hide in confessionals,
Sheltered by the shuffling of feet.
Gorgeous -- barbaric
In its mail of jewels and gold,
Saint Mark's looks down at the swarm of black masks;
And outside in the palace gardens brown leaves fall,
Flutter,
Fall.
Brown,
And yellow streaked with brown.

Blue-black, the sky over Venice,
With a pricking of yellow stars.
There is no moon,
And the waves push darkly against the prow
Of the gondola,
Coming from Malamocco
And streaming toward Venice.
It is black under the gondola hood,
But the yellow of a satin dress
Glares out like the eye of a watching tiger.
Yellow compassed about with darkness,
Yellow and black,
Gorgeous -- barbaric.
The boatman sings,
It is Tasso that he sings;
The lovers seek each other beneath their mantles,
And the gondola drifts over the lagoon, aslant to the coming dawn.
But at Malamocco in front,
In Venice behind,
Fall the leaves,
Brown,
And yellow streaked with brown.
They fall,
Flutter,
Fall.
Sam Temple Mar 2016
Breaking waves crashed upon my feet
toes poking into the dampened sand
on my face I felt the sun
and considered its warmth and power
got lost in quiet reflection
and found myself searching deep
within my own soul for some answers
to the great universal questions
but I did not know why we are on earth
or by what mode our story began
I was just as the sand, but a tiny speck of dust
one in the cornucopia of humanity

the wind blew a swirl of sand
large enough to partially blot out the sun
wind gusts with such force and power
I could no longer see my reflection
but stood still for fear of the ocean so deep
when I heard the slightest whisper of an answer
as if the wind sought to respond to my questions
surrounding life on earth
and how it all began
from just asteroid dust
to the gross expansion of humanity
I looked down at my bare feet

I felt on my back and neck the heat of the sun
Worried I was being burned by its power
from both sides with the sea’s reflection
I stepped into the deep
and in the darkness I found some answers
to my most pressing question
about the source of water on earth
and if colliding comets are where it began
mingling with asteroid dust
to create a hospitable environment for humanity
from fins to feet
and back to dust and sand

the frigid water squished me with such power  
there was no more time for peaceful reflection
as I sank further into the deep
no longer looking for answers
I had but one question
was this to be the end of my time on earth
when it feels like it as only just began
am I to just become more dust
catching in the dry and voiceless throats of humanity
I sank fathoms and feet
until I lightly touched down on the sand
but I could see no sun

I tried to locate my reflection
but my own face was lost in the deep
I cried out for an answer
but my mind only reeled with more questions
mainly relating to if I was still on the earth
had I been taken back to when time began
before water and dust
long before the taint of humanity
I felt as though my feet
were caught in a quagmire of mud and sand
unable to ever be dried by the sun
never touched by ultra-violet power

distorted and skewed as the water was so deep
but holding answers
to my questions
it came up from the very earth
and I began
to strip away the flotsam and dust
and stand up for all of humanity
in an instant is was just at a few feet
stopped suddenly in the sand
and shown me the grace of the sun
in all its glory and power
I saw my own reflection

I, at once, knew the answer
I no longer needed the questions
we were part of the earth
that was how we began
from magnetized and electrified dust
we mounted a charge to become humanity
growing legs and standing upon feet
walking away from the shore and sand
to stand in a meadow grown by the sun
feel the mountain power
and experience the quiet stream reflection
that can take a Being so deep

free from the bane of answering questions
I felt free to fall into the earth
become as it had began
dissolve back to dust
and let go the trapping of humanity
trade in my five-toed feet
and melt into the dunes of sand
warmed by the setting sun
granted power
through reflection
there was nothing so deep
as to have all the answers

I sat upon the red clay earth
thinking about how it all began
scratching around for a handful of dust
that represented humanity
I tossed it into the air and it flew a few feet
and landed amongst the sand
sat baking in the sun
void of power
lacking the ability for reflection
falling off the cliff into the deep
seeking answers
finding only more questions

was this how it all began
truly, no alien force or god hand, just dust
morphing into what we know as humanity
clapping hands and stomping feet
on the chemically altered sand
drawing energy from the sun
to give our homes power
no longer seeking inner reflection
to anything running very deep
instead seeking only safe answers
by asking mundane questions
never considering one’s place on the earth

my teeth clamped tight and crunched some dust
wishing it were the bones of humanity
starting with toes and feet
eating mankind like the ocean does the sand
like comets to the sun
like power
does to those impoverished and lost in reflection
leaving bodies buried deep
offering no answers
to any child’s question
to the state of the earth
to how this all began

it started with the civilization of humanity
when we planted out feet
firmly into the sand
grew crops in the springtime sun
and felt the corruption of power
lost sight of our reflection
somewhere so deep
that the true answers
only come across as more questions
as we slowly destroy the earth
same way it all began
by turning the land into dust

I saw my feet sink into the sand and get burned by the sun
Its power caused a reflection and my soul sunk deep
Looking for answers to questions about the state of the earth
Then it began to all turn to dust and I watched the end of humanity
Clindballe May 2014
In a trance, slashing throats. I'm in a killer mood someone's going to pay for this. All this betray and backstabbing. Pleasure by seeing other people suffering. Stressed out, messed up, ****** up. Killing every living thing as I walk by. Tonight you're all going to pay. Tonight is the end. **Suffer!
Written: May 22. -2014
Bare-handed, I hand the combs.
The man in white smiles, bare-handed,
Our cheesecloth gauntlets neat and sweet,
The throats of our wrists brave lilies.
He and I

Have a thousand clean cells between us,
Eight combs of yellow cups,
And the hive itself a teacup,
White with pink flowers on it,
With excessive love I enameled it

Thinking 'Sweetness, sweetness.'
Brood cells gray as the fossils of shells
Terrify me, they seem so old.
What am I buying, wormy mahogany?
Is there any queen at all in it?

If there is, she is old,
Her wings torn shawls, her long body
Rubbed of its plush ----
Poor and bare and unqueenly and even shameful.
I stand in a column

Of winged, unmiraculous women,
Honey-drudgers.
I am no drudge
Though for years I have eaten dust
And dried plates with my dense hair.

And seen my strangeness evaporate,
Blue dew from dangerous skin.
Will they hate me,
These women who only scurry,
Whose news is the open cherry, the open clover?

It is almost over.
I am in control.
Here is my honey-machine,
It will work without thinking,
Opening, in spring, like an industrious ******

To scour the creaming crests
As the moon, for its ivory powders, scours the sea.
A third person is watching.
He has nothing to do with the bee-seller or with me.
Now he is gone

In eight great bounds, a great scapegoat.
Here is his slipper, here is another,
And here the square of white linen
He wore instead of a hat.
He was sweet,

The sweat of his efforts a rain
Tugging the world to fruit.
The bees found him out,
Molding onto his lips like lies,
Complicating his features.

They thought death was worth it, but I
Have a self to recover, a queen.
Is she dead, is she sleeping?
Where has she been,
With her lion-red body, her wings of glass?

Now she is flying
More terrible than she ever was, red
Scar in the sky, red comet
Over the engine that killed her ----
The mausoleum, the wax house.
em Jun 2015
You're my storm cloud disguised as sunshine
but your masquerade never stops the rain.
Laughs like lightning flashing across your face
sharp and dangerous, followed by the thunder of
my ignorance, cluing you in on how far your lies
stretch into my desperation to be wanted.

Lightning.
Thunder.
Oh I never thought
I was that funny
Your electric strings
Pull the punch lines out of my mouth.
Thunder.
The lightning's best friend.

Thunder.
You must really like me
You must have told your friends about me too.
Because that cackles coming out of their
throats when I tell a joke sound just like
the storm, the zigzags of fire that tear through the clouds.
telling me how funny I am, how much they love having me around.
How you need me.
Time for my response… its my job right?
Thunder.

Thunder.

Why is it now that the way you curl your lips
when I make my jokes
looking
less
and less
like a smile?
Your friends know that shape
and they know how to make their lips look the same way.
Is it some contagious thing that they all have, and disease
passed around the room every time that lightning escapes.
But they all think I am funny
It must just be a friend thing…
I should learn how to do it too.
Thunder.

Thunder.

Streaming pixels
Blurry faces of “friends”
it must have been a mistake
The love me
next time,
I’ll make sure to clear it up with them
why wouldn't they want me to attend?
Thunder.

Thunder.


Glances like knives
Darting through the air like flies
and infestation of insects that
carry messages that
I don’t understand.
But they do.
Like a major league team
catch after catch
never missing those eyes that
seem a little bit darker
and a little bit colder.
Passing the ball around the bases
returning the favor.
Why can’t I grip ball that seems to bind
them all together
leaving trails of
text messages
and parties
that I was not invited to
this ball that seems to always
keep me on the outfield.
And how come everytime that ball goes
around
and
around….
its feels like
a punch to the stomach
never ceasing to knock me
down
and
leave me
breathless.


This must be what friendship feels like…
Thunder.


Is it?
because I look around
these hallways
where I always walk to fast
trying to keep up
yet I am always
one
step
behind.
I see that
these other girls
walk in straight lines
arms joined so that no one
falls
too
far behind
yet I’m always walking in
dizzy circles
wondering when they will
turn around to see if I am
still following,
still standing,
still funny.

Thunder, the lightning's best friend…
but that is never who I was to you.
another spoken word that I preformed today and will preform on wendsday in front of a larger audience, my entire grade oh goodness.
this poem although open to interpretation does have some format that means something. So the lighting represents laughter and the thunder kinda represents be being clueless to the people laughing AT me not with me. That's at least how I mean it to be understood, but If you see it another way that that's cool too :)
Now, when the moon slid under the cloud
And the cold clear dark of starlight fell,
He heard in his blood the well-known bell
Tolling slowly in heaves of sound,
Slowly beating, slowly beating,
Shaking its pulse on the stagnant air:
Sometimes it swung completely round,
Horribly gasping as if for breath;
Falling down with an anguished cry . . .
Now the red bat, he mused, will fly;
Something is marked, this night, for death . . .
And while he mused, along his blood
Flew ghostly voices, remote and thin,
They rose in the cavern of his brain,
Like ghosts they died away again;
And hands upon his heart were laid,
And music upon his flesh was played,
Until, as he was bidden to do,
He walked the wood he so well knew.
Through the cold dew he moved his feet,
And heard far off, as under the earth,
Discordant music in shuddering tones,
Screams of laughter, horrible mirth,
Clapping of hands, and thudding of drums,
And the long-drawn wail of one in pain.
To-night, he thought, I shall die again,
We shall die again in the red-eyed fire
To meet on the edge of the wood beyond
With the placid gaze of fed desire . . .
He walked; and behind the whisper of trees,
In and out, one walked with him:
She parted the branches and peered at him,
Through lowered lids her two eyes burned,
He heard her breath, he saw her hand,
Wherever he turned his way, she turned:
Kept pace with him, now fast, now slow;
Moving her white knees as he moved . . .
This is the one I have always loved;
This is the one whose bat-soul comes
To dance with me, flesh to flesh,
In the starlight dance of horns and drums . . .

The walls and roofs, the scarlet towers,
Sank down behind a rushing sky.
He heard a sweet song just begun
Abruptly shatter in tones and die.
It whirled away.  Cold silence fell.
And again came tollings of a bell.

     *     *     *     *     *

This air is alive with witches: the white witch rides
Swifter than smoke on the starlit wind.
In the clear darkness, while the moon hides,
They come like dreams, like something remembered . .
Let us hurry! beloved; take my hand,
Forget these things that trouble your eyes,
Forget, forget!  Our flesh is changed,
Lighter than smoke we wreathe and rise . . .

The cold air hisses between us . . . Beloved, beloved,
What was the word you said?
Something about clear music that sang through water . . .
I cannot remember.  The storm-drops break on the leaves.
Something was lost in the darkness.  Someone is dead.
Someone lies in the garden and grieves.
Look how the branches are tossed in this air,
Flinging their green to the earth!
Black clouds rush to devour the stars in the sky,
The moon stares down like a half-closed eye.
The leaves are scattered, the birds are blown,
Oaks crash down in the darkness,
We run from our windy shadows; we are running alone.

     *     *     *     *     *

The moon was darkened: across it flew
The swift grey tenebrous shape he knew,
Like a thing of smoke it crossed the sky,
The witch! he said.  And he heard a cry,
And another came, and another came,
And one, grown duskily red with blood,
Floated an instant across the moon,
Hung like a dull fantastic flame . . .
The earth has veins: they throb to-night,
The earth swells warm beneath my feet,
The tips of the trees grow red and bright,
The leaves are swollen, I feel them beat,
They press together, they push and sigh,
They listen to hear the great bat cry,
The great red bat with the woman's face . . .
Hurry! he said.  And pace for pace
That other, who trod the dark with him,
Crushed the live leaves, reached out white hands
And closed her eyes, the better to see
The priests with claws, the lovers with hooves,
The fire-lit rock, the sarabands.
I am here! she said.  The bough he broke--
Was it the snapping bough that spoke?
I am here! she said.  The white thigh gleamed
Cold in starlight among dark leaves,
The head thrown backward as he had dreamed,
The shadowy red deep jasper mouth;
And the lifted hands, and the ****** *******,
Passed beside him, and vanished away.
I am here! she cried.  He answered 'Stay!'
And laughter arose, and near and far
Answering laughter rose and died . . .
Who is there? in the dark? he cried.
He stood in terror, and heard a sound
Of terrible hooves on the hollow ground;
They rushed, were still; a silence fell;
And he heard deep tollings of a bell.

     *     *     *     *     *

Look beloved!  Why do you hide your face?
Look, in the centre there, above the fire,
They are bearing the boy who blasphemed love!
They are playing a piercing music upon him
With a bow of living wire! . . .
The ****** harlot sings,
She leans above the beautiful anguished body,
And draws slow music from those strings.
They dance around him, they fling red roses upon him,
They trample him with their naked feet,
His cries are lost in laughter,
Their feet grow dark with his blood, they beat and
      beat,
They dance upon him, until he cries no more . . .
Have we not heard that cry before?
Somewhere, somewhere,
Beside a sea, in the green evening,
Beneath green clouds, in a copper sky . . .
Was it you? was it I?
They have quenched the fires, they dance in the darkness,
The satyrs have run among them to seize and tear,
Look! he has caught one by the hair,
She screams and falls, he bears her away with him,
And the night grows full of whistling wings.
Far off, one voice, serene and sweet,
Rises and sings . . .

'By the clear waters where once I died,
In the calm evening bright with stars. . . .'
Where have I heard these words?  Was it you who sang them?
It was long ago.
Let us hurry, beloved! the hard hooves trample;
The treetops tremble and glow.

     *     *     *     *     *

In the clear dark, on silent wings,
The red bat hovers beneath her moon;
She drops through the fragrant night, and clings
Fast in the shadow, with hands like claws,
With soft eyes closed and mouth that feeds,
To the young white flesh that warmly bleeds.
The maidens circle in dance, and raise
From lifting throats, a soft-sung praise;
Their knees and ******* are white and bare,
They have hung pale roses in their hair,
Each of them as she dances by
Peers at the blood with a narrowed eye.
See how the red wing wraps him round,
See how the white youth struggles in vain!
The weak arms writhe in a soundless pain;
He writhes in the soft red veiny wings,
But still she whispers upon him and clings. . . .
This is the secret feast of love,
Look well, look well, before it dies,
See how the red one trembles above,
See how quiet the white one lies! . . . .

Wind through the trees. . . and a voice is heard
Singing far off.  The dead leaves fall. . . .
'By the clear waters where once I died,
In the calm evening bright with stars,
One among numberless avatars,
I wedded a mortal, a mortal bride,
And lay on the stones and gave my flesh,
And entered the hunger of him I loved.
How shall I ever escape this mesh
Or be from my lover's body removed?'
Dead leaves stream through the hurrying air
And the maenads dance with flying hair.

     *     *     *     *     *

The priests with hooves, the lovers with horns,
Rise in the starlight, one by one,
They draw their knives on the spurting throats,
They smear the column with blood of goats,
They dabble the blood on hair and lips
And wait like stones for the moon's eclipse.
They stand like stones and stare at the sky
Where the moon leers down like a half-closed eye. . .
In the green moonlight still they stand
While wind flows over the darkened sand
And brood on the soft forgotten things
That filled their shadowy yesterdays. . . .
Where are the *******, the scarlet wings? . . . .
They gaze at each other with troubled gaze. . . .
And then, as the shadow closes the moon,
Shout, and strike with their hooves the ground,
And rush through the dark, and fill the night
With a slowly dying clamor of sound.
There, where the great walls crowd the stars,
There, by the black wind-riven walls,
In a grove of twisted leafless trees. . . .
Who are these pilgrims, who are these,
These three, the one of whom stands upright,
While one lies weeping and one of them crawls?
The face that he turned was a wounded face,
I heard the dripping of blood on stones. . . .
Hooves had trampled and torn this place,
And the leaves were strewn with blood and bones.
Sometimes, I think, beneath my feet,
The warm earth stretches herself and sighs. . . .
Listen!  I heard the slow heart beat. . . .
I will lie on this grass as a lover lies
And reach to the north and reach to the south
And seek in the darkness for her mouth.

     *     *     *     *     *

Beloved, beloved, where the slow waves of the wind
Shatter pale foam among great trees,
Under the hurrying stars, under the heaving arches,
Like one whirled down under shadowy seas,
I run to find you, I run and cry,
Where are you?  Where are you?  It is I.  It is I.
It is your eyes I seek, it is your windy hair,
Your starlight body that breathes in the darkness there.
Under the darkness I feel you stirring. . . .
Is this you?  Is this you?
Bats in this air go whirring. . . .
And this soft mouth that darkly meets my mouth,
Is this the soft mouth I knew?
Darkness, and wind in the tortured trees;
And the patter of dew.

     *     *     *     *     *

Dance!  Dance!  Dance!  Dance!
Dance till the brain is red with speed!
Dance till you fall!  Lift your torches!
Kiss your lovers until they bleed!
Backward I draw your anguished hair
Until your eyes are stretched with pain;
Backward I press you until you cry,
Your lips grow white, I kiss you again,
I will take a torch and set you afire,
I will break your body and fling it away. . . .
Look, you are trembling. . . Lie still, beloved!
Lock your hands in my hair, and say
Darling! darling! darling! darling!
All night long till the break of day.

Is it your heart I hear beneath me. . . .
Or the far tolling of that tower?
The voices are still that cried around us. . . .
The woods grow still for the sacred hour.
Rise, white lover! the day draws near.
The grey trees lean to the east in fear.
'By the clear waters where once I died . . . .'
Beloved, whose voice was this that cried?
'By the clear waters that reach the sun
By the clear waves that starward run. . . .
I found love's body and lost his soul,
And crumbled in flame that should have annealed. . .
How shall I ever again be whole,
By what dark waters shall I be healed?'

Silence. . . the red leaves, one by one,
Fall.  Far off, the maenads run.

Silence.  Beneath my naked feet
The veins of the red earth swell and beat.
The dead leaves sigh on the troubled air,
Far off the maenads bind their hair. . . .
Hurry, beloved! the day comes soon.
The fire is drawn from the heart of the moon.

     *     *     *     *     *

The great bell cracks and falls at last.
The moon whirls out.  The sky grows still.
Look, how the white cloud crosses the stars
And suddenly drops behind the hill!
Your eyes are placid, you smile at me,
We sit in the room by candle-light.
We peer in each other's veins and see
No sign of the things we saw this night.
Only, a song is in your ears,
A song you have heard, you think, in dream:
The song which only the demon hears,
In the dark forest where maenads scream . . .

'By the clear waters where once I died . . .
In the calm evening bright with stars . . . '
What do the strange words mean? you say,--
And touch my hand, and turn away.
Musings of a Police Reporter in the Identification Bureau

You have loved forty women, but you have only one thumb.
You have led a hundred secret lives, but you mark only
     one thumb.
You go round the world and fight in a thousand wars and
     win all the world's honors, but when you come back
     home the print of the one thumb your mother gave
     you is the same print of thumb you had in the old
     home when your mother kissed you and said good-by.
Out of the whirling womb of time come millions of men
and their feet crowd the earth and they cut one anothers'
     throats for room to stand and among them all
     are not two thumbs alike.
Somewhere is a Great God of Thumbs who can tell the
     inside story of this.
Sam Clemens May 2014
Where do they all go
the unspoken words
Do they melt, into nothingness
burning in the backs of our throats
Or delve into the blue deepness of our thoughts
a sunken treasure
I think they hitch rides
with the hopeless
and the heartbroken
Sitting heavy on shoulders

And I'm walking with the weight of the world
and I'm walking with the weight of the world
Pink confused with white
flowers and flowers reversed
take and spill the shaded flame
darting it back
into the lamp’s horn

petals aslant darkened with mauve

red where in whorls
petal lays its glow upon petal
round flamegreen throats

petals radiant with transpiercing light
contending
              above
the leaves
reaching up their modest green
from the ***’s rim

and there, wholly dark, the ***
gay with rough moss.
Derick Smith Sep 2014
Your living water
ferments my soul.

Out spills wine—
a sweet elixir

for thirsty souls,
for hungry hearts.

(Your drinking songs
soothe parched throats)

For our hangovers:
Your living water
A glorious cycle
It is full winter now:  the trees are bare,
Save where the cattle huddle from the cold
Beneath the pine, for it doth never wear
The autumn’s gaudy livery whose gold
Her jealous brother pilfers, but is true
To the green doublet; bitter is the wind, as though it blew

From Saturn’s cave; a few thin wisps of hay
Lie on the sharp black hedges, where the wain
Dragged the sweet pillage of a summer’s day
From the low meadows up the narrow lane;
Upon the half-thawed snow the bleating sheep
Press close against the hurdles, and the shivering house-dogs creep

From the shut stable to the frozen stream
And back again disconsolate, and miss
The bawling shepherds and the noisy team;
And overhead in circling listlessness
The cawing rooks whirl round the frosted stack,
Or crowd the dripping boughs; and in the fen the ice-pools crack

Where the gaunt bittern stalks among the reeds
And ***** his wings, and stretches back his neck,
And hoots to see the moon; across the meads
Limps the poor frightened hare, a little speck;
And a stray seamew with its fretful cry
Flits like a sudden drift of snow against the dull grey sky.

Full winter:  and the ***** goodman brings
His load of ******* from the chilly byre,
And stamps his feet upon the hearth, and flings
The sappy billets on the waning fire,
And laughs to see the sudden lightening scare
His children at their play, and yet,—the spring is in the air;

Already the slim crocus stirs the snow,
And soon yon blanched fields will bloom again
With nodding cowslips for some lad to mow,
For with the first warm kisses of the rain
The winter’s icy sorrow breaks to tears,
And the brown thrushes mate, and with bright eyes the rabbit peers

From the dark warren where the fir-cones lie,
And treads one snowdrop under foot, and runs
Over the mossy knoll, and blackbirds fly
Across our path at evening, and the suns
Stay longer with us; ah! how good to see
Grass-girdled spring in all her joy of laughing greenery

Dance through the hedges till the early rose,
(That sweet repentance of the thorny briar!)
Burst from its sheathed emerald and disclose
The little quivering disk of golden fire
Which the bees know so well, for with it come
Pale boy’s-love, sops-in-wine, and daffadillies all in bloom.

Then up and down the field the sower goes,
While close behind the laughing younker scares
With shrilly whoop the black and thievish crows,
And then the chestnut-tree its glory wears,
And on the grass the creamy blossom falls
In odorous excess, and faint half-whispered madrigals

Steal from the bluebells’ nodding carillons
Each breezy morn, and then white jessamine,
That star of its own heaven, snap-dragons
With lolling crimson tongues, and eglantine
In dusty velvets clad usurp the bed
And woodland empery, and when the lingering rose hath shed

Red leaf by leaf its folded panoply,
And pansies closed their purple-lidded eyes,
Chrysanthemums from gilded argosy
Unload their gaudy scentless merchandise,
And violets getting overbold withdraw
From their shy nooks, and scarlet berries dot the leafless haw.

O happy field! and O thrice happy tree!
Soon will your queen in daisy-flowered smock
And crown of flower-de-luce trip down the lea,
Soon will the lazy shepherds drive their flock
Back to the pasture by the pool, and soon
Through the green leaves will float the hum of murmuring bees at noon.

Soon will the glade be bright with bellamour,
The flower which wantons love, and those sweet nuns
Vale-lilies in their snowy vestiture
Will tell their beaded pearls, and carnations
With mitred dusky leaves will scent the wind,
And straggling traveller’s-joy each hedge with yellow stars will bind.

Dear bride of Nature and most bounteous spring,
That canst give increase to the sweet-breath’d kine,
And to the kid its little horns, and bring
The soft and silky blossoms to the vine,
Where is that old nepenthe which of yore
Man got from poppy root and glossy-berried mandragore!

There was a time when any common bird
Could make me sing in unison, a time
When all the strings of boyish life were stirred
To quick response or more melodious rhyme
By every forest idyll;—do I change?
Or rather doth some evil thing through thy fair pleasaunce range?

Nay, nay, thou art the same:  ’tis I who seek
To vex with sighs thy simple solitude,
And because fruitless tears bedew my cheek
Would have thee weep with me in brotherhood;
Fool! shall each wronged and restless spirit dare
To taint such wine with the salt poison of own despair!

Thou art the same:  ’tis I whose wretched soul
Takes discontent to be its paramour,
And gives its kingdom to the rude control
Of what should be its servitor,—for sure
Wisdom is somewhere, though the stormy sea
Contain it not, and the huge deep answer ‘’Tis not in me.’

To burn with one clear flame, to stand *****
In natural honour, not to bend the knee
In profitless prostrations whose effect
Is by itself condemned, what alchemy
Can teach me this? what herb Medea brewed
Will bring the unexultant peace of essence not subdued?

The minor chord which ends the harmony,
And for its answering brother waits in vain
Sobbing for incompleted melody,
Dies a swan’s death; but I the heir of pain,
A silent Memnon with blank lidless eyes,
Wait for the light and music of those suns which never rise.

The quenched-out torch, the lonely cypress-gloom,
The little dust stored in the narrow urn,
The gentle XAIPE of the Attic tomb,—
Were not these better far than to return
To my old fitful restless malady,
Or spend my days within the voiceless cave of misery?

Nay! for perchance that poppy-crowned god
Is like the watcher by a sick man’s bed
Who talks of sleep but gives it not; his rod
Hath lost its virtue, and, when all is said,
Death is too rude, too obvious a key
To solve one single secret in a life’s philosophy.

And Love! that noble madness, whose august
And inextinguishable might can slay
The soul with honeyed drugs,—alas! I must
From such sweet ruin play the runaway,
Although too constant memory never can
Forget the arched splendour of those brows Olympian

Which for a little season made my youth
So soft a swoon of exquisite indolence
That all the chiding of more prudent Truth
Seemed the thin voice of jealousy,—O hence
Thou huntress deadlier than Artemis!
Go seek some other quarry! for of thy too perilous bliss.

My lips have drunk enough,—no more, no more,—
Though Love himself should turn his gilded prow
Back to the troubled waters of this shore
Where I am wrecked and stranded, even now
The chariot wheels of passion sweep too near,
Hence!  Hence!  I pass unto a life more barren, more austere.

More barren—ay, those arms will never lean
Down through the trellised vines and draw my soul
In sweet reluctance through the tangled green;
Some other head must wear that aureole,
For I am hers who loves not any man
Whose white and stainless ***** bears the sign Gorgonian.

Let Venus go and chuck her dainty page,
And kiss his mouth, and toss his curly hair,
With net and spear and hunting equipage
Let young Adonis to his tryst repair,
But me her fond and subtle-fashioned spell
Delights no more, though I could win her dearest citadel.

Ay, though I were that laughing shepherd boy
Who from Mount Ida saw the little cloud
Pass over Tenedos and lofty Troy
And knew the coming of the Queen, and bowed
In wonder at her feet, not for the sake
Of a new Helen would I bid her hand the apple take.

Then rise supreme Athena argent-limbed!
And, if my lips be musicless, inspire
At least my life:  was not thy glory hymned
By One who gave to thee his sword and lyre
Like AEschylos at well-fought Marathon,
And died to show that Milton’s England still could bear a son!

And yet I cannot tread the Portico
And live without desire, fear and pain,
Or nurture that wise calm which long ago
The grave Athenian master taught to men,
Self-poised, self-centred, and self-comforted,
To watch the world’s vain phantasies go by with unbowed head.

Alas! that serene brow, those eloquent lips,
Those eyes that mirrored all eternity,
Rest in their own Colonos, an eclipse
Hath come on Wisdom, and Mnemosyne
Is childless; in the night which she had made
For lofty secure flight Athena’s owl itself hath strayed.

Nor much with Science do I care to climb,
Although by strange and subtle witchery
She drew the moon from heaven:  the Muse Time
Unrolls her gorgeous-coloured tapestry
To no less eager eyes; often indeed
In the great epic of Polymnia’s scroll I love to read

How Asia sent her myriad hosts to war
Against a little town, and panoplied
In gilded mail with jewelled scimitar,
White-shielded, purple-crested, rode the Mede
Between the waving poplars and the sea
Which men call Artemisium, till he saw Thermopylae

Its steep ravine spanned by a narrow wall,
And on the nearer side a little brood
Of careless lions holding festival!
And stood amazed at such hardihood,
And pitched his tent upon the reedy shore,
And stayed two days to wonder, and then crept at midnight o’er

Some unfrequented height, and coming down
The autumn forests treacherously slew
What Sparta held most dear and was the crown
Of far Eurotas, and passed on, nor knew
How God had staked an evil net for him
In the small bay at Salamis,—and yet, the page grows dim,

Its cadenced Greek delights me not, I feel
With such a goodly time too out of tune
To love it much:  for like the Dial’s wheel
That from its blinded darkness strikes the noon
Yet never sees the sun, so do my eyes
Restlessly follow that which from my cheated vision flies.

O for one grand unselfish simple life
To teach us what is Wisdom! speak ye hills
Of lone Helvellyn, for this note of strife
Shunned your untroubled crags and crystal rills,
Where is that Spirit which living blamelessly
Yet dared to kiss the smitten mouth of his own century!

Speak ye Rydalian laurels! where is he
Whose gentle head ye sheltered, that pure soul
Whose gracious days of uncrowned majesty
Through lowliest conduct touched the lofty goal
Where love and duty mingle!  Him at least
The most high Laws were glad of, he had sat at Wisdom’s feast;

But we are Learning’s changelings, know by rote
The clarion watchword of each Grecian school
And follow none, the flawless sword which smote
The pagan Hydra is an effete tool
Which we ourselves have blunted, what man now
Shall scale the august ancient heights and to old Reverence bow?

One such indeed I saw, but, Ichabod!
Gone is that last dear son of Italy,
Who being man died for the sake of God,
And whose unrisen bones sleep peacefully,
O guard him, guard him well, my Giotto’s tower,
Thou marble lily of the lily town! let not the lour

Of the rude tempest vex his slumber, or
The Arno with its tawny troubled gold
O’er-leap its marge, no mightier conqueror
Clomb the high Capitol in the days of old
When Rome was indeed Rome, for Liberty
Walked like a bride beside him, at which sight pale Mystery

Fled shrieking to her farthest sombrest cell
With an old man who grabbled rusty keys,
Fled shuddering, for that immemorial knell
With which oblivion buries dynasties
Swept like a wounded eagle on the blast,
As to the holy heart of Rome the great triumvir passed.

He knew the holiest heart and heights of Rome,
He drave the base wolf from the lion’s lair,
And now lies dead by that empyreal dome
Which overtops Valdarno hung in air
By Brunelleschi—O Melpomene
Breathe through thy melancholy pipe thy sweetest threnody!

Breathe through the tragic stops such melodies
That Joy’s self may grow jealous, and the Nine
Forget awhile their discreet emperies,
Mourning for him who on Rome’s lordliest shrine
Lit for men’s lives the light of Marathon,
And bare to sun-forgotten fields the fire of the sun!

O guard him, guard him well, my Giotto’s tower!
Let some young Florentine each eventide
Bring coronals of that enchanted flower
Which the dim woods of Vallombrosa hide,
And deck the marble tomb wherein he lies
Whose soul is as some mighty orb unseen of mortal eyes;

Some mighty orb whose cycled wanderings,
Being tempest-driven to the farthest rim
Where Chaos meets Creation and the wings
Of the eternal chanting Cherubim
Are pavilioned on Nothing, passed away
Into a moonless void,—and yet, though he is dust and clay,

He is not dead, the immemorial Fates
Forbid it, and the closing shears refrain.
Lift up your heads ye everlasting gates!
Ye argent clarions, sound a loftier strain
For the vile thing he hated lurks within
Its sombre house, alone with God and memories of sin.

Still what avails it that she sought her cave
That murderous mother of red harlotries?
At Munich on the marble architrave
The Grecian boys die smiling, but the seas
Which wash AEgina fret in loneliness
Not mirroring their beauty; so our lives grow colourless

For lack of our ideals, if one star
Flame torch-like in the heavens the unjust
Swift daylight kills it, and no trump of war
Can wake to passionate voice the silent dust
Which was Mazzini once! rich Niobe
For all her stony sorrows hath her sons; but Italy,

What Easter Day shall make her children rise,
Who were not Gods yet suffered? what sure feet
Shall find their grave-clothes folded? what clear eyes
Shall see them ******?  O it were meet
To roll the stone from off the sepulchre
And kiss the bleeding roses of their wounds, in love of her,

Our Italy! our mother visible!
Most blessed among nations and most sad,
For whose dear sake the young Calabrian fell
That day at Aspromonte and was glad
That in an age when God was bought and sold
One man could die for Liberty! but we, burnt out and cold,

See Honour smitten on the cheek and gyves
Bind the sweet feet of Mercy:  Poverty
Creeps through our sunless lanes and with sharp knives
Cuts the warm throats of children stealthily,
And no word said:- O we are wretched men
Unworthy of our great inheritance! where is the pen

Of austere Milton? where the mighty sword
Which slew its master righteously? the years
Have lost their ancient leader, and no word
Breaks from the voiceless tripod on our ears:
While as a ruined mother in some spasm
Bears a base child and loathes it, so our best enthusiasm

Genders unlawful children, Anarchy
Freedom’s own Judas, the vile prodigal
Licence who steals the gold of Liberty
And yet has nothing, Ignorance the real
One Fraticide since Cain, Envy the asp
That stings itself to anguish, Avarice whose palsied grasp

Is in its extent stiffened, moneyed Greed
For whose dull appetite men waste away
Amid the whirr of wheels and are the seed
Of things which slay their sower, these each day
Sees rife in England, and the gentle feet
Of Beauty tread no more the stones of each unlovely street.

What even Cromwell spared is desecrated
By **** and worm, left to the stormy play
Of wind and beating snow, or renovated
By more destructful hands:  Time’s worst decay
Will wreathe its ruins with some loveliness,
But these new Vandals can but make a rain-proof barrenness.

Where is that Art which bade the Angels sing
Through Lincoln’s lofty choir, till the air
Seems from such marble harmonies to ring
With sweeter song than common lips can dare
To draw from actual reed? ah! where is now
The cunning hand which made the flowering hawthorn branches bow

For Southwell’s arch, and carved the House of One
Who loved the lilies of the field with all
Our dearest English flowers? the same sun
Rises for us:  the seasons natural
Weave the same tapestry of green and grey:
The unchanged hills are with us:  but that Spirit hath passed away.

And yet perchance it may be better so,
For Tyranny is an incestuous Queen,
****** her brother is her bedfellow,
And the Plague chambers with her:  in obscene
And ****** paths her treacherous feet are set;
Better the empty desert and a soul inviolate!

For gentle brotherhood, the harmony
Of living in the healthful air, the swift
Clean beauty of strong limbs when men are free
And women chaste, these are the things which lift
Our souls up more than even Agnolo’s
Gaunt blinded Sibyl poring o’er the scroll of human woes,

Or Titian’s little maiden on the stair
White as her own sweet lily and as tall,
Or Mona Lisa smiling through her hair,—
Ah! somehow life is bigger after all
Than any painted angel, could we see
The God that is within us!  The old Greek serenity

Which curbs the passion of that
emily Apr 2017
between the concrete river
& the park where the bums share a bottle
wrapped in a brown paper sack,

there is a cul-de-sac of plastic houses
holding hands & sharing manicured lawns
wooden cars that don't even make any smoke
drive down gray asphalt streets.

fathers that tell mothers they have jobs
wear down street corners sharing beers with the bums,
like they already are one.

all these paper families rubbing shoulders
until everyone has paper cuts.
going home to dinner around a table full of paper love.

suburbia is flimsy
paper towns shining white
smiling neighbors & shared lawns
paper people slowly falling apart.

couples with their tongues down each other's throats,
midnight in supermarket parking lots
dribbling beer in the backseat
they bought off the bums.  

they say,
I love you, I love you, I love you.
until she leaves for a paper husband
& he leaves for a paper wife.

now they live on two separate cul-de-sacs
with the same cutout love,
as the parents they despised.

& when they have kids one day
they will tell them
never kiss before driving,
never befriend bums,
or guzzle cheap beer in backseats,
or on park swings.
& never settle for a paper husband
or a paper wife.


remembering the love
that was flimsy,
but never paper.

100,000 miles away from where they grew up
& 3,000 miles away from each other
3 kids each & plastic houses
rubbing shoulders & sharing lawns

living in a paper thin suberbia
chafing under their paper love.
inspired by "Paper Towns" by John Green
Terry O'Leary Sep 2013
MORNING HAS BROKEN
The men, in lines, ***** two by two,
forgetting all the women who
indulged them through a night of tricks
(their lips designed with crimson sticks,
their eyes a wild mascara mix)

and think instead on times ahead
when they’ll be gone, their bodies dead
(some rotting slow’, some mummified)
though once they were their mummy’s pride.

Attired bright in uniforms,
they strew their bombs in desert storms -
like melting sands, the sky deforms
with darkness, death - and doomsday swarms
through ravished lands where fires warm
the corpses, cold and puriform.

Their eyes flash forward towards the backs
of lucky ones who have the knack
of never being in the way
of bursts of bullets as they stray
(effacing phantoms faraway)
and dodging doom’s Redemption Day.

They’re wishing for a foggy morn
or best of all to be unborn,
and peering down to mark the sway
of wings in webs while spiders prey,

they wonder when their time will come
and they can cease their fleeing from
the sights they’ve seen, the deeds they’ve done,
the life they’ve lost, the death they’ve won,

then muse a while upon the child
they killed today when they went wild,
and when they’re finally reconciled
with broken bodies stacked and piled,

they ponder, does she have a kin
to curse them for their burning sin?

And if she does, will god reply
with tooth for tooth and eye for eye?

Or will her clan be mild and meek
and simply turn the other cheek?

2. MIDDAY MUSINGS
They’re counting steps to pass the time
and puzzle if they’ll reach their prime
or if instead they’ll serve the worm
their carnal flesh and aching *****

when soon, perhaps, they sleep in berth
provided by the chilling earth,
and fret about the fate they’ll find
below the stones that slowly grind.

And once or twice will come to mind
a sultry smile they left behind
(the distant past - a tepid trace –
another time, another place),
reflected in the gray grimace
that paints a frightened fading face.

And on they trek through guilt and gloom
to track their own and others' doom
and soon they’ll  grace another pool
with blood of other beings who’ll

inhale no more the evening airs,
unlike the wily Functionaires
who brutalize the fighting men
and send them far away and then

(relaxed, unwound, with victories made)
confer with sword an accolade
on those who’ve lopped bowed heads, with blade,
so someone bent must turn a *****

to hack a hole which then is filled
with all the cloven bodies killed
then cloaked with clay or loamy dirt,
as if to hide the pain and hurt.

3. TEATIME INTROSPECTION
Amongst the many are the few
who maim and **** and think it’s true
that purple war’s a parlour game
when really they’re submerged in shame
for crimes for which they are to blame
and can’t expunge with searing flame

while plodding through an endless time,
or pealing bells with holy chime,
or posing in a paradigm
where paradox and riddle rhyme.

And when they die (as die they must),
forevermore their putrid dust,
still soaked with gore and carmine lust,
will conjure thoughts of cold disgust.

And even though torrential rain
(which tastes at times like cool champagne)
can wash away the scarlet stain
which soaks the sands of god’s terrain,

it cannot ever cleanse the hands
that work the guns and burning brands,
or purge the throats that give commands
to him who never understands.

Nor can the raging hurricane
from blackened souls the white regain,
rescind the sins or void the banes
or loose the ****** from Satan’s chains
who line the pits of hell’s domains.

4. EVENING REFLECTIONS
When through the day to night they pass,
their eyes avoid the looking glass
displaying dim a pale phantasm
plunging deeper down a chasm,
surging through a blood ******,
smiling thin unveiled sarcasm

for the chances lost to taste
the many fruits that went to waste
when each was still a joyous lad,
who went to school and learned to add
and danced in rivers, barefoot clad,

attended church with mom and dad
(which tends the poor and cheers the sad),
to pray for good and curse the bad,
before, in war insanely mad,
he fought the fight (no Galahad)

by flinging flames and slashing throats,
immersing bods in  midnight moats
between the broken battered boats
where babes and booted bodies float,

and leaving bags of bones to bloat
in bullet-ridden overcoats,
and wondered if the goblins gloat
or spot (behind his eyes, the motes),

then strode away without a thought
that mortal lives had come to naught,
sedated by his conscience brought
to nothing more than dripping snot,
while Others sit upon a yacht
and pluck the eyes of fish They’ve caught,

for, when they die, fish seem to see
The Ones behind the tyranny
(with bellies round from gluttony)
in future dangling from a tree
(with leaves as black as ebony),
for that’s, They fear, Their destiny.

5. MIDNIGHT DREAMS**
At night the soldiers sometimes dream
of many things which make them scream,
like
                      floating down a gelid stream
             with burning flesh and cold ice cream
             upon their lips, which makes it seem
             as though their salt they can’t redeem
             when looking back at bold extremes
             of valiant warriors’ victory schemes.

Or ofter yet,
                      they sometimes meet
             a broken skull upon the street
             with gaping eyes, its mouth replete
             with swollen tongue that can’t repeat
             mere words of joy when lovers greet,
             or yell aloud or indiscreet’,

             or talk about the grand deceit
             of Those Who live on Easy Street,
             Who plot, destroy and overeat,
             while others bide beneath a sheet
             on bed of steely cold concrete,

             with final gift a flag or wreath
             that soon will wither like their teeth
             when once they’re settled underneath
             a mound of muck on mouldy heath,
             to lurk in Limbo Land beneath.

And ever more before they wake,
appear quaint dreams not quite opaque,  
like
                      upside down upon a lake
             keeps popping up a pregnant Drake
             who says “there must be some mistake,
             I only have a bellyache”,
             while high above’s a flying Snake,
             (a sight to make a killer quake).

             She cries aloud “for mercy’s sake
             your foresight’s blind, your wisdom’s fake
             the fragile bodies that you break,
             impale or burn upon a stake,
             then stack in layers like a cake,
             reflect a lust that death can’t slake”.

             And turquoise Turtles on the make
             (though taking time to overtake,
             each slurping down a chocolate shake)
             rev up to plead “let us explain,
             we think you men are all insane
            with morals thin as cellophane;

             for, peering through god’s window pane,
             we see quite clearly those you’ve slain,
             enough to fill the Dim Domain
             with blood and guts and tears and pain,
             Chimeras of a frenzied brain.”

             A worn and weary weather vane
             announces floods of claret rain
             that forty days and nights sustain,
             submerging mountains, raising Cain,
             while flushing mankind’s acid reign
             down nature’s evolution drain.

             The Serpent hails a hydroplane
             “because”, she hissed, “we can’t remain;
             behind the hill, the atom’s spark
             has vaporized the palace park,
             reduced to dust the Meadowlark
             and nullified the Rainbow’s arc”.

             And while the others hush and hark,
             a feline Toad begins to bark
             “This plane is certainly Boa’s Ark.

             Let’s flee the Human hierarch,
             forsake all Men to sate the Shark
             which swim within the Waters Dark,
             and purge all traces of the Mark
             in Eden when we disembark.”

             The beasts, in lines, by twos embark.

The dreamers wake, they’re staring, stark,
behind their eyes, a watermark.
Endless Horizon Aug 2014
Shy
Her.
She is sitting by the table...eating...laughing.
Well I don't care what she's doing,
except her reaction when I ask her my question.

I approach.
But I feel like a blindfolded pilot,
on his way to land his airplane.
Unable to discern right from left.

I freeze.
Feet from my destination,
all my muscles stop moving.
I stand there like a statue,
thinking if I should really ask.

I turn around.
Throats already dry...
My head turns the other way,
and so does the rest of my body.
I couldn't help it. I can't.
Even if I had enough guts to say anything to her.

Another day goes by,
without saying a word.
Its not that easy you know,
because I'm just too

shy.
Shyness. It plagues everyone. But all you gotta do is ask.
Short one before I go to bed :)
The Red Rain of Kerala wrote this Plague
Un-supported by Evidence and Song
As it wept and bled that once-thirsty Plain
Locals knew their throats will not dry too long
But how could they drink this very strange Guilt
When their Sheets un-furled like the Flags of War
And not until the Google-Heads came in
They realised it was foreign before
Samples were taken in pursuit of Cause
Then page by page those Suspects came to light
Was it Bacteria? Or Lichens-at-Lost
Either way there was some Blood to incite.
When those Findings end, much was to conclude
Which Creation's Purchase falls upon you.
Tyler James Cook May 2014
I can't wait till I'm awake..
Plugged into the wall.
Nothing noted until the shell of the capsule
collapses under the weight of your trembling hands.

No there is no notation for what was said between us, just figure-less voices and a strenuous pain that strained our throats for the fear of nothing being communicated between the exasperated gasps of what was less than incommunicable silence.

Ugly is not a word but a feeling applied with meaning, applied to a certain truth about that metallic taste in my mouth, that tearful pain jostled in my chest and that consuming fear.

  I know little of what this ugliness could mean other than it harbors shame in my corners. This shame is not inborn in anyone, but it builds it's presence as a drunken braggart who shouts obscenities and believes he is a prince of highest regard.

His ugliness is in what he slings from his tongue and his criticisms of all who in his mind toil about. But he is simply a angry troll with no heart and delusions of grandeur, frittering away time.. for time stands as an eternal judge and measure.
Already over the sea from her old spouse she comes,
the blonde goddess whose frosty wheels bring day.
Why do you hurry, Aurora? Hold off, so may the birds
shed ritual blood each year for Memnon's shade.
Now it's good to lie in my mistress's tender arms;
if ever, now it's good to feel her near.
Now drowsiness is richest, the morning air is cool,
and birds sing shrilly from their tender throats.
Why do you hurry, dreaded by men and dreaded by girls?
Draw back your dewy reins with your crimson hand.
The sailor marks the stars more clearly before you rise,
not raoming aimlessly across the sea;
the traveller, though weary, arises when you come,
and the soldier sets his savage hand to arms;
you're first to see the farmers wield their heavy hoes
and to call slow oxen under the curving yoke;
you rob boys of their sleep and give them over to schools,
where tender hands must bear the savage switch;
and you send reckless fools to pledge themselves in court,
where they take ruinous losses through one word;
the lawyer and the pleader take no delight in you,
for each must rise and wrangle with new torts;
and you ensure that women's chores are never done,
calling the spinner's hands back to her wool.
All this I'd bear; but who would bear that girls must rise
at dawn, unless himself he has no girl?
How many times I've wished Night would not yield to you,
the stars not fade and flee before your face!
How many times I've wished the wind would smash your wheels,
your steeds would stumble on a cloud and fall!
Jealous, why do you hurry? If your son is black,
it's since his mother's heart is that same color.
How I wish Tithonus could still tell tales of you:
no goddess would be more disgraced in heaven.
Since he is endless eons old, you rise and flee
at dawn to the chariot the old man hates,
but if some Cephalus were lying in your arms,
you'd cry out, 'O run slowly, steeds of night! '
Why should this lover pay, if your husband withers with age?
Was I the matchmaker who brought him to you?
Remember how much sleep was given to her loved youth
by Luna - and she's beautiful as you.
The father of gods himself, to see you all the less,
joined two nights into one for his desires.
I'd finished my complaint. You could tell she'd heard: she blushed;
and yet the day rose at its usual time.
MAKE war songs out of these;
Make chants that repeat and weave.
Make rhythms up to the ragtime chatter of the machine guns;
Make slow-booming psalms up to the boom of the big guns.
Make a marching song of swinging arms and swinging legs,
        Going along,
        Going along,
On the roads from San Antonio to Athens, from Seattle to Bagdad-
The boys and men in winding lines of khaki, the circling squares of bayonet points.

Cowpunchers, cornhuskers, shopmen, ready in khaki;
Ballplayers, lumberjacks, ironworkers, ready in khaki;
A million, ten million, singing, "I am ready."
This the sun looks on between two seaboards,
In the land of Lincoln, in the land of Grant and Lee.

I heard one say, "I am ready to be killed."
I heard another say, "I am ready to be killed."
O sunburned clear-eyed boys!
I stand on sidewalks and you go by with drums and guns and bugles,
        You-and the flag!
And my heart tightens, a fist of something feels my throat
        When you go by,
You on the kaiser hunt, you and your faces saying, "I am ready to be killed."

They are hunting death,
Death for the one-armed mastoid kaiser.
They are after a Hohenzollern head:
There is no man-hunt of men remembered like this.

The four big brothers are out to ****.
France, Russia, Britain, America-
The four republics are sworn brothers to **** the kaiser.

Yes, this is the great man-hunt;
And the sun has never seen till now
Such a line of toothed and tusked man-killers,
In the blue of the upper sky,
In the green of the undersea,
In the red of winter dawns.
Eating to ****,
Sleeping to ****,
Asked by their mothers to ****,
Wished by four-fifths of the world to ****-
To cut the kaiser's throat,
To hack the kaiser's head,
To hang the kaiser on a high-horizon gibbet.

And is it nothing else than this?
Three times ten million men thirsting the blood
Of a half-cracked one-armed child of the German kings?
Three times ten million men asking the blood
Of a child born with his head wrong-shaped,
The blood of rotted kings in his veins?
If this were all, O God,
I would go to the far timbers
And look on the gray wolves
Tearing the throats of moose:
I would ask a wilder drunk of blood.

Look! It is four brothers in joined hands together.
        The people of bleeding France,
        The people of bleeding Russia,
        The people of Britain, the people of America-
These are the four brothers, these are the four republics.

At first I said it in anger as one who clenches his fist in wrath to fling his knuckles into the face of some one taunting;
Now I say it calmly as one who has thought it over and over again at night, among the mountains, by the seacombers in storm.
I say now, by God, only fighters to-day will save the world, nothing but fighters will keep alive the names of those who left red prints of bleeding feet at Valley Forge in Christmas snow.
On the cross of Jesus, the sword of Napoleon, the skull of Shakespeare, the pen of Tom Jefferson, the ashes of Abraham Lincoln, or any sign of the red and running life poured out by the mothers of the world,
By the God of morning glories climbing blue the doors of quiet homes, by the God of tall hollyhocks laughing glad to children in peaceful valleys, by the God of new mothers wishing peace to sit at windows nursing babies,
I swear only reckless men, ready to throw away their lives by hunger, deprivation, desperate clinging to a single purpose imperturbable and undaunted, men with the primitive guts of rebellion,
Only fighters gaunt with the red brand of labor's sorrow on their brows and labor's terrible pride in their blood, men with souls asking danger-only these will save and keep the four big brothers.

Good-night is the word, good-night to the kings, to the czars,
        Good-night to the kaiser.
The breakdown and the fade-away begins.
The shadow of a great broom, ready to sweep out the trash, is here.

One finger is raised that counts the czar,
The ghost who beckoned men who come no more-
The czar gone to the winds on God's great dustpan,
The czar a pinch of nothing,
The last of the gibbering Romanoffs.

Out and good-night-
The ghosts of the summer palaces
And the ghosts of the winter palaces!
Out and out, good-night to the kings, the czars, the kaisers.

Another finger will speak,
And the kaiser, the ghost who gestures a hundred million sleeping-waking ghosts,
The kaiser will go onto God's great dustpan-
The last of the gibbering Hohenzollerns.
Look! God pities this trash, God waits with a broom and a dustpan,
God knows a finger will speak and count them out.

It is written in the stars;
It is spoken on the walls;
It clicks in the fire-white zigzag of the Atlantic wireless;
It mutters in the bastions of thousand-mile continents;
It sings in a whistle on the midnight winds from Walla Walla to Mesopotamia:
Out and good-night.

The millions slow in khaki,
The millions learning Turkey in the Straw and John Brown's Body,
The millions remembering windrows of dead at Gettysburg, Chickamauga, and Spottsylvania Court House,
The millions dreaming of the morning star of Appomattox,
The millions easy and calm with guns and steel, planes and prows:
        There is a hammering, drumming hell to come.
        The killing gangs are on the way.

God takes one year for a job.
God takes ten years or a million.
God knows when a doom is written.
God knows this job will be done and the words spoken:
Out and good-night.
        The red tubes will run,
        And the great price be paid,
        And the homes empty,
        And the wives wishing,
        And the mothers wishing.

There is only one way now, only the way of the red tubes and the great price.

        Well...
Maybe the morning sun is a five-cent yellow balloon,
And the evening stars the joke of a God gone crazy.
Maybe the mothers of the world,
And the life that pours from their torsal folds-
Maybe it's all a lie sworn by liars,
And a God with a cackling laughter says:
"I, the Almighty God,
I have made all this,
I have made it for kaisers, czars, and kings."

Three times ten million men say: No.
Three times ten million men say:
        God is a God of the People.
And the God who made the world
        And fixed the morning sun,
        And flung the evening stars,
        And shaped the baby hands of life,
This is the God of the Four Brothers;
This is the God of bleeding France and bleeding Russia;
This is the God of the people of Britain and America.

The graves from the Irish Sea to the Caucasus peaks are ten times a million.
The stubs and stumps of arms and legs, the eyesockets empty, the cripples, ten times a million.
The crimson thumb-print of this anathema is on the door panels of a hundred million homes.
Cows gone, mothers on sick-beds, children cry a hunger and no milk comes in the noon-time or at night.
The death-yells of it all, the torn throats of men in ditches calling for water, the shadows and the hacking lungs in dugouts, the steel paws that clutch and squeeze a scarlet drain day by day-the storm of it is hell.
But look! child! the storm is blowing for a clean air.

Look! the four brothers march
And hurl their big shoulders
And swear the job shall be done.

Out of the wild finger-writing north and south, east and west, over the blood-crossed, blood-dusty ball of earth,
Out of it all a God who knows is sweeping clean,
Out of it all a God who sees and pierces through, is breaking and cleaning out an old thousand years, is making ready for a new thousand years.
The four brothers shall be five and more.

Under the chimneys of the winter time the children of the world shall sing new songs.
Among the rocking restless cradles the mothers of the world shall sing new sleepy-time songs.
Julian Jun 2018
The ******* of embezzled glory staunchly defend their counterfeit stature by defalcating the public trust of industrious societies governed internally by compunction and sabotaged externally by the tempests of acerbic fate met with inclement aleatory convergence. To supply a society with ingenuity without being complaisant or officious with unctuous pleas to the overlords we must fashion a new vogue that taps the bustle of giants and aggrandizes the margins to oversee their own creative destinies with scaffolded arrangements of titanic promise and justifiable fluidity to conquer the blinkered dogmatism of a dissolute chastity to inveterate apocryphal tenets of factitious but unmerited perspectives. Democracy crumbles when the convenience of sensationalism supplants the resolve of those that fossick hidden wealth and promulgate validity instead of undergirding pomp with precarious prevarications of duplicitous omission guarded gingerly by the gatekeepers of a ****** sanity that whitewashes the discussion with invented hobgoblins and purblind catharsis. To defeat simplicity and enshrine byzantine elegance as the paragon for voguish commentary rather than abide by a bowdlerized decorum for appeasing simpletons with divisive balkanization through identity politics we can overcome the impediments to human progress that are engineered to persist because of the inertia of the listless and the stubbornness of doctrinaire politicization and invent vivacity and festivity anew. We need to divorce ourselves from pedestrian quibbles of hero-worship that endanger the vitality of the common discourse because of fastidious pedantic disempowerment that ravages us with debased dreams by underscoring nuisances and tolerable nightmares that emasculate the virulence of the liberated individual and subvert his ambitions to contend with a picaresque world of limitless promise and self-motivated internal wealth.
      The bane of modernity is how chary the world becomes because of fractured histories intersecting with controversial destinies and the antidote to that poisonous self-defeating self-censorship is the audacity of brazen challenges to expurgation through assiduous resourcefulness and delicate diplomacy in wrangling controversies with outspoken courage rather than whispered resentment. Temerity waged in inclement circumstance is justified and curiosity stoked by lambent flames of fulgurant individualism should be fortified to the extent necessary to conquer the feckless spoilsports of unctuous puritanism and institutional obedience. The quacksalvers that blather about inconsequence strand the imagination in a desiccated desert that is ostracized from the palettes of the artistic whim to wield efflorescence rather than squander life in pursuit of perfunctory lucre or tenuous solidarity around banal idealism promised by social justice warriors that forget the biggest war being waged on humanity is on the ingenuity of the common discourse and the liberty to opine about real issues rather than saccharine conventions of emasculation through linguistic imprisonment and epicurean slavery to fashimites who relish the buzzword but never the enlightened audience that scoffs at feeble attempts at cultural commentary like Childish Gambino’s “This is America” music video. This particular artifact is a demonstration of how childishly fickle the plebeian mentality really is, stitching together a bricolage of violence to engineer controversy and serenading it with the most banal music imaginable and exhorting people to herald it as a high artform while inundating the world with unimaginative comic book movies and Star Wars rip-offs because of the lucrative business of formulaic replication. “This is America” should be regarded as a parody of itself because of how hackneyed its design is and how cacophonous it sounds and mocks its audience with lowbrow tactics of adding tinsel to trash and marketing it as the glory of tatterdemalions rather than the refinement of true cinematic achievements that have been relegated because Warhol’s Campbells-Soup-consumerism trumps true belletrist in the public view.
        Cultural watersheds punctuate our history with salient achievements in experimentation, but the formulaic profiteering of buzzword sensationalism and yellow journalism and the ostentatious glorification of promiscuous boasting and fancy cars tantalize the mice to continue playing slot machines rather than penning a novel or doing something promethean. The world scoffs at Trump but ignores the bigger institutional caveats that endanger us much more than a pragmatic albeit unconventional pontificator who is complicit in constructing a false narrative to enslave mindless people to fret about eminence rather than delight themselves in the consequential nuances of established refinement that used to serenade the world with flourish and spectacle. The world kowtows to the crusade against flavor-of-the-week enemies of the liberal-conservative syncretism because it has been conditioned to believe that synthesis is the only logical solution for the polarized worldviews of churlish people that become parvenus not on their merits but on their marketable pitfalls and their public foibles. Peccadillos are more important to people than virtues and this makes society morally bankrupt if we loiter around Astroturf causes that have been infiltrated by corporatism and venal debauchery and acquiesce as disempowered gossip hounds that hunt in packs to find jest in aberration rather than achievement in self-created narratives that defy the stupid purblind boorishness of the mainstream media and its haughty liberalism or the persnickety condemnation of priggish conservative moralities that had an expiration date 50 years ago. Who the **** cares about transgender-touting-gender-fluidity quidnuncs and the snooty obsession with lurid personal endeavors of reputable people that made minor ****** transgressions in a world policed by wide-eyed feminazis that seek to ransack men of their vital virulence to spotlight their unjustifiable oppression. Women are oppressed but the carnal nature of their calumniation and their vindictive powers of persuasion are deployed with such vehement vigilance and such distaste for the majority that the world relegates itself to quibbles of celebrities rather than substantive issues. There is a systemic feminization of society occurring that seeks to demarcate despotic uxorious pleasantries as an incarceration of vocal dissent against supercilious women and their tamed men that slavishly grovel in repudiation of anything prickly.  Men historically have oppressed women but the solution to this quandary isn’t a reverse discrimination where the minority concern is spotlighted as a majoritarian issue that overshadows the disproportionate nature of our society where nominal accreditation is afforded in a non-meritocratic way to absolve people of their carnality and demote the vigorous defense of human liberty as secondary to compromise solutions that appease more people than they offend but simultaneously result in suboptimal conditions that reward arbitrarily coachable people while jettisoning anyone witty enough to be capable of insubordination of a hedonistic epicurean world obsessed with appearance and ravaged by the decadence of formulaic profiteering at the expense of originality and true promethean art that is herculean enough to defy hackneyed tropes and siphon the best elements from a piecemeal world variegated with complexity but stifled by fomented hatred.
The solutions to these problems is to create a watchdog group of artistic critics who become eminent and ubiquitously heard enough to offer creative consultation to the artistic endeavors that we consume and the music that is curated for fastidious ears that crave euphonic originality rather than the banality of easily dovetailed bass-heavy cookie-cutter garbage and the gaudy tactics of talentless rappers whose swagger derives from  the intersection of opportunism and the divestiture of an industry that rewards gloated supercilious epicureanism and meretricious marketability. Am I the only one jaded by second-rate superhero movies that infest the cinemas that borrow from Michael Bay while thrusting pulse-pounding but narratively bankrupt movies down the throats of consumers that might prize the cinematic originality of the heyday of filmmaking? Is it always high art to invent controversy that is witless or half-witted just because it will create buzz? Shouldn’t we condemn the laziness of society in acquiescing to the penury of the modern cultural narrative which belabors the dead horses of racism and sexism ad nauseum? Shouldn’t we fight the war of against inequity through legislation rather than hibernating about scandalous eminence and testy malfeasance?
          Liberty should be championed above all else and we are turning our backs on the future unless we muster the resolve to diminish the sway of the common narrative and aim our spotlight at consequential endeavors rather than the tropes of prosaic and pedestrian bastardization of art and culture. We need to fight artistic laziness which has ravaged our culture and castigate the tactics of wannabee celebrities that use lurid tactics to attract an audience by bedizening themselves with Pyrrhic ostentations and rampant fakery to create more melodrama in a world that needs to be less histrionic. YouTube celebrities swarm us as they get high on ******* and lean-- at our expense-- and vandalize property and convincing nine-year-old’s like Lil Tay to flex her money like it is infinitely renewable in a finite world where all our attention is wasted on artless artifice of less talented people that know how to engineer a ruckus by strutting themselves beyond all decency and selling out to a corporatist nightmare of enslaved convenience. We need to be more vocal about the dissolution of artistic merit and the formulaic repetition of successful formulas that jade us and make us yawn about another retread of a previously successful idea that is milked to the point of cruelty.                                                         ­                       
       Let’s change the narrative and focus on creating true art rather than reacting to the meretricious tinsel of the vogue consensus which is so impotent in its ability to rivet audiences because it has become so notoriously lazy. Fight laziness in art, dismiss your news feeds, be resourceful, seek true happiness rather than find yourself hoodwinked and duped by the idea that Trump is the most important issue or getting caught in thought loops and brooding about sexism and inequality. Let us strive to be egalitarian but within limits that would also appease hominists rather than just the hypertrophy of the leftist narrative that seeks to cage us with the doublespeak of complaisant conformity.  Reject the unctuous charlatans that pretend priggishness when their banausic purpose is barbaric but beguiling to be a lullaby for laggards. We need to fight for the future of civilization rather than hobnob with convenience and loiter around decrying false perpetrators rather than systemic injustices that could otherwise be rectified if enough people fought for it. We can invent a future that is a great festivity serenaded by cultivated artistic refinement and forget about the trifles that divide us. United in ambition and fueled by ingenuity we can defeat artistic laziness and be resourceful with how we decide what is newsworthy. Spurred by the argosy of proactive motivation we can change the world in a substantial way by deciphering the subtext that governs the world. The subtext is everything!
Tatiana Jan 2015
Everything is so tight.
Jeans, leggings, dresses, shirts, skirts, jackets
and summer wear is even worse and more revealing with
crop tops, shorts, and even shorter skirts and dresses.
How are we all able to breathe?
Victorian fashion had corsets
and those made them faint!
So why does the fashion have to be tight?
Don't get me wrong,
I do like skinny jeans, and tight shirts and dresses
I am a girl after all,
we all give in to the status quo of fashion at times.
But, sizes are even smaller now than they were before.
I haven't gained or lost weight,
my waist size hasn't changed,
nothing has.
Except for the clothes.
Are we trying to make women smaller and thinner
by just shrinking the clothes?
It should not be ¨Survival of the fittest¨
in the dressing rooms.
That isn't cool.
Also, why are the pants so short?
I have long legs, okay,
and because my waist size matches someone who is smaller than me
then that must mean that I am short
according to clothes.
Therefore I have difficulty finding pants
that fit my waist
and my legs.
I am not blind to my surroundings.
Every single girl
Goes. Through. This.
We all have shopping woes,
some worse than others.
We all gain uncomfortable experiences
whether it be from something not fitting,
or from the attention on the streets
that we get for wearing it.
Then of course, don't forget the media!
Remember all those pictures of perfect people
being shoved down our throats
strangling us until we accept the fact
that we should be just like them.

Suffocation is the latest fashion,
and we are expected to wear it well.
You know, I would very much like to have pockets in my jeans...
 © Tatiana
BOOK I

S.  Patrick. You who are bent, and bald, and blind,
With a heavy heart and a wandering mind,
Have known three centuries, poets sing,
Of dalliance with a demon thing.

Oisin. Sad to remember, sick with years,
The swift innumerable spears,
The horsemen with their floating hair,
And bowls of barley, honey, and wine,
Those merry couples dancing in tune,
And the white body that lay by mine;
But the tale, though words be lighter than air.
Must live to be old like the wandering moon.

Caoilte, and Conan, and Finn were there,
When we followed a deer with our baying hounds.
With Bran, Sceolan, and Lomair,
And passing the Firbolgs' burial-motmds,
Came to the cairn-heaped grassy hill
Where passionate Maeve is stony-still;
And found On the dove-grey edge of the sea
A pearl-pale, high-born lady, who rode
On a horse with bridle of findrinny;
And like a sunset were her lips,
A stormy sunset on doomed ships;
A citron colour gloomed in her hair,

But down to her feet white vesture flowed,
And with the glimmering crimson glowed
Of many a figured embroidery;
And it was bound with a pearl-pale shell
That wavered like the summer streams,
As her soft ***** rose and fell.

S.  Patrick. You are still wrecked among heathen dreams.

Oisin. "Why do you wind no horn?' she said
"And every hero droop his head?
The hornless deer is not more sad
That many a peaceful moment had,
More sleek than any granary mouse,
In his own leafy forest house
Among the waving fields of fern:
The hunting of heroes should be glad.'

'O pleasant woman,' answered Finn,
"We think on Oscar's pencilled urn,
And on the heroes lying slain
On Gabhra's raven-covered plain;
But where are your noble kith and kin,
And from what country do you ride?'

"My father and my mother are
Aengus and Edain, my own name
Niamh, and my country far
Beyond the tumbling of this tide.'

"What dream came with you that you came
Through bitter tide on foam-wet feet?
Did your companion wander away
From where the birds of Aengus wing?'
Thereon did she look haughty and sweet:
"I have not yet, war-weary king,
Been spoken of with any man;
Yet now I choose, for these four feet
Ran through the foam and ran to this
That I might have your son to kiss.'

"Were there no better than my son
That you through all that foam should run?'

"I loved no man, though kings besought,
Until the Danaan poets brought
Rhyme that rhymed upon Oisin's name,
And now I am dizzy with the thought
Of all that wisdom and the fame
Of battles broken by his hands,
Of stories builded by his words
That are like coloured Asian birds
At evening in their rainless lands.'

O Patrick, by your brazen bell,
There was no limb of mine but fell
Into a desperate gulph of love!
'You only will I wed,' I cried,
"And I will make a thousand songs,
And set your name all names above,
And captives bound with leathern thongs
Shall kneel and praise you, one by one,
At evening in my western dun.'

"O Oisin, mount by me and ride
To shores by the wash of the tremulous tide,
Where men have heaped no burial-mounds,
And the days pass by like a wayward tune,
Where broken faith has never been known
And the blushes of first love never have flown;
And there I will give you a hundred hounds;
No mightier creatures bay at the moon;
And a hundred robes of murmuring silk,
And a hundred calves and a hundred sheep
Whose long wool whiter than sea-froth flows,
And a hundred spears and a hundred bows,
And oil and wine and honey and milk,
And always never-anxious sleep;
While a hundred youths, mighty of limb,
But knowing nor tumult nor hate nor strife,
And a hundred ladies, merry as birds,
Who when they dance to a fitful measure
Have a speed like the speed of the salmon herds,
Shall follow your horn and obey your whim,
And you shall know the Danaan leisure;
And Niamh be with you for a wife.'
Then she sighed gently, "It grows late.
Music and love and sleep await,
Where I would be when the white moon climbs,
The red sun falls and the world grows dim.'

And then I mounted and she bound me
With her triumphing arms around me,
And whispering to herself enwound me;
He shook himself and neighed three times:
Caoilte, Conan, and Finn came near,
And wept, and raised their lamenting hands,
And bid me stay, with many a tear;
But we rode out from the human lands.
In what far kingdom do you go'
Ah Fenians, with the shield and bow?
Or are you phantoms white as snow,
Whose lips had life's most prosperous glow?
O you, with whom in sloping vallcys,
Or down the dewy forest alleys,
I chased at morn the flying deer,
With whom I hurled the hurrying spear,
And heard the foemen's bucklers rattle,
And broke the heaving ranks of battle!
And Bran, Sceolan, and Lomair,
Where are you with your long rough hair?
You go not where the red deer feeds,
Nor tear the foemen from their steeds.

S.  Patrick. Boast not, nor mourn with drooping head
Companions long accurst and dead,
And hounds for centuries dust and air.

Oisin. We galloped over the glossy sea:
I know not if days passed or hours,
And Niamh sang continually
Danaan songs, and their dewy showers
Of pensive laughter, unhuman sound,
Lulled weariness, and softly round
My human sorrow her white arms wound.
We galloped; now a hornless deer
Passed by us, chased by a phantom hound
All pearly white, save one red ear;
And now a lady rode like the wind
With an apple of gold in her tossing hand;
And a beautiful young man followed behind
With quenchless gaze and fluttering hair.
"Were these two born in the Danaan land,
Or have they breathed the mortal air?'

"Vex them no longer,' Niamh said,
And sighing bowed her gentle head,
And sighing laid the pearly tip
Of one long finger on my lip.

But now the moon like a white rose shone
In the pale west, and the sun'S rim sank,
And clouds atrayed their rank on rank
About his fading crimson ball:
The floor of Almhuin's hosting hall
Was not more level than the sea,
As, full of loving fantasy,
And with low murmurs, we rode on,
Where many a trumpet-twisted shell
That in immortal silence sleeps
Dreaming of her own melting hues,
Her golds, her ambers, and her blues,
Pierced with soft light the shallowing deeps.
But now a wandering land breeze came
And a far sound of feathery quires;
It seemed to blow from the dying flame,
They seemed to sing in the smouldering fires.
The horse towards the music raced,
Neighing along the lifeless waste;
Like sooty fingers, many a tree
Rose ever out of the warm sea;
And they were trembling ceaselessly,
As though they all were beating time,
Upon the centre of the sun,
To that low laughing woodland rhyme.
And, now our wandering hours were done,
We cantered to the shore, and knew
The reason of the trembling trees:
Round every branch the song-birds flew,
Or clung thereon like swarming bees;
While round the shore a million stood
Like drops of frozen rainbow light,
And pondered in a soft vain mood
Upon their shadows in the tide,
And told the purple deeps their pride,
And murmured snatches of delight;
And on the shores were many boats
With bending sterns and bending bows,
And carven figures on their prows
Of bitterns, and fish-eating stoats,
And swans with their exultant throats:
And where the wood and waters meet
We tied the horse in a leafy clump,
And Niamh blew three merry notes
Out of a little silver trump;
And then an answering whispering flew
Over the bare and woody land,
A whisper of impetuous feet,
And ever nearer, nearer grew;
And from the woods rushed out a band
Of men and ladies, hand in hand,
And singing, singing all together;
Their brows were white as fragrant milk,
Their cloaks made out of yellow silk,
And trimmed with many a crimson feather;
And when they saw the cloak I wore
Was dim with mire of a mortal shore,
They fingered it and gazed on me
And laughed like murmurs of the sea;
But Niamh with a swift distress
Bid them away and hold their peace;
And when they heard her voice they ran
And knelt there, every girl and man,
And kissed, as they would never cease,
Her pearl-pale hand and the hem of her dress.
She bade them bring us to the hall
Where Aengus dreams, from sun to sun,
A Druid dream of the end of days
When the stars are to wane and the world be done.

They led us by long and shadowy ways
Where drops of dew in myriads fall,
And tangled creepers every hour
Blossom in some new crimson flower,
And once a sudden laughter sprang
From all their lips, and once they sang
Together, while the dark woods rang,
And made in all their distant parts,
With boom of bees in honey-marts,
A rumour of delighted hearts.
And once a lady by my side
Gave me a harp, and bid me sing,
And touch the laughing silver string;
But when I sang of human joy
A sorrow wrapped each merry face,
And, patrick! by your beard, they wept,
Until one came, a tearful boy;
"A sadder creature never stept
Than this strange human bard,' he cried;
And caught the silver harp away,
And, weeping over the white strings, hurled
It down in a leaf-hid, hollow place
That kept dim waters from the sky;
And each one said, with a long, long sigh,
"O saddest harp in all the world,
Sleep there till the moon and the stars die!'

And now, still sad, we came to where
A beautiful young man dreamed within
A house of wattles, clay, and skin;
One hand upheld his beardless chin,
And one a sceptre flashing out
Wild flames of red and gold and blue,
Like to a merry wandering rout
Of dancers leaping in the air;
And men and ladies knelt them there
And showed their eyes with teardrops dim,
And with low murmurs prayed to him,
And kissed the sceptre with red lips,
And touched it with their finger-tips.
He held that flashing sceptre up.
"Joy drowns the twilight in the dew,
And fills with stars night's purple cup,
And wakes the sluggard seeds of corn,
And stirs the young kid's budding horn,
And makes the infant ferns unwrap,
And for the peewit paints his cap,
And rolls along the unwieldy sun,
And makes the little planets run:
And if joy were not on the earth,
There were an end of change and birth,
And Earth and Heaven and Hell would die,
And in some gloomy barrow lie
Folded like a frozen fly;
Then mock at Death and Time with glances
And wavering arms and wandering dances.

"Men's hearts of old were drops of flame
That from the saffron morning came,
Or drops of silver joy that fell
Out of the moon's pale twisted shell;
But now hearts cry that hearts are slaves,
And toss and turn in narrow caves;
But here there is nor law nor rule,
Nor have hands held a weary tool;
And here there is nor Change nor Death,
But only kind and merry breath,
For joy is God and God is joy.'
With one long glance for girl and boy
And the pale blossom of the moon,
He fell into a Druid swoon.

And in a wild and sudden dance
We mocked at Time and Fate and Chance
And swept out of the wattled hall
And came to where the dewdrops fall
Among the foamdrops of the sea,
And there we hushed the revelry;
And, gathering on our brows a frown,
Bent all our swaying bodies down,
And to the waves that glimmer by
That sloping green De Danaan sod
Sang, "God is joy and joy is God,
And things that have grown sad are wicked,
And things that fear the dawn of the morrow
Or the grey wandering osprey Sorrow.'

We danced to where in the winding thicket
The damask roses, bloom on bloom,
Like crimson meteors hang in the gloom.
And bending over them softly said,
Bending over them in the dance,
With a swift and friendly glance
From dewy eyes:  "Upon the dead
Fall the leaves of other roses,
On the dead dim earth encloses:
But never, never on our graves,
Heaped beside the glimmering waves,
Shall fall the leaves of damask roses.
For neither Death nor Change comes near us,
And all listless hours fear us,
And we fear no dawning morrow,
Nor the grey wandering osprey Sorrow.'

The dance wound through the windless woods;
The ever-summered solitudes;
Until the tossing arms grew still
Upon the woody central hill;
And, gathered in a panting band,
We flung on high each waving hand,
And sang unto the starry broods.
In our raised eyes there flashed a glow
Of milky brightness to and fro
As thus our song arose:  "You stars,
Across your wandering ruby cars
Shake the loose reins:  you slaves of God.
He rules you with an iron rod,
He holds you with an iron bond,
Each one woven to the other,
Each one woven to his brother
Like bubbles in a frozen pond;
But we in a lonely land abide
Unchainable as the dim tide,
With hearts that know nor law nor rule,
And hands that hold no wearisome tool,
Folded in love that fears no morrow,
Nor the grey wandering osprey Sorrow.'

O Patrick! for a hundred years
I chased upon that woody shore
The deer, the badger, and the boar.
O patrick! for a hundred years
At evening on the glimmering sands,
Beside the piled-up hunting spears,
These now outworn and withered hands
Wrestled among the island bands.
O patrick! for a hundred years
We went a-fishing in long boats
With bending sterns and bending bows,
And carven figures on their prows
Of bitterns and fish-eating stoats.
O patrick! for a hundred years
The gentle Niamh was my wife;
But now two things devour my life;
The things that most of all I hate:
Fasting and prayers.

S.  Patrick. Tell On.

Oisin. Yes, yes,
For these were ancient Oisin's fate
Loosed long ago from Heaven's gate,
For his last days to lie in wait.
When one day by the tide I stood,
I found in that forgetfulness
Of dreamy foam a staff of wood
From some dead warrior's broken lance:
I tutned it in my hands; the stains
Of war were on it, and I wept,
Remembering how the Fenians stept
Along the blood-bedabbled plains,
Equal to good or grievous chance:
Thereon young Niamh softly came
And caught my hands, but spake no word
Save only many times my name,
In murmurs, like a frighted bird.
We passed by woods, and lawns of clover,
And found the horse and bridled him,
For we knew well the old was over.
I heard one say, "His eyes grow dim
With all the ancient sorrow of men';
And wrapped in dreams rode out again
With hoofs of the pale findrinny
Over the glimmering purple sea.
Under the golden evening light,
The Immortals moved among thc fountains
By rivers and the woods' old night;
Some danced like shadows on the mountains
Some wandered ever hand in hand;
Or sat in dreams on the pale strand,
Each forehead like an obscure star
Bent down above each hooked knee,
And sang, and with a dreamy gaze
Watched where the sun in a saffron blaze
Was slumbering half in the sea-ways;
And, as they sang, the painted birds



























































­

























Kept time with their bright wings and feet;
Like drops of honey came their words,
But fainter than a young lamb's bleat.

"An old man stirs the fire to a blaze,
In the house of a child, of a friend, of a brother.
He has over-lingered his welcome; the days,
Grown desolate, whisper and sigh to each other;
He hears the storm in the chimney above,
And bends to the fire and shakes with the cold,
While his heart still dreams of battle and love,
And the cry of the hounds on the hills of old.

But We are apart in the grassy places,
Where care cannot trouble the least of our days,
Or the softness of youth be gone from our faces,
Or love's first tenderness die in our gaze.
The hare grows old as she plays in the sun
And gazes around her with eyes of brightness;
Before the swift things that she dreamed of were done
She limps along in an aged whiteness;
A storm of birds in the Asian trees
Like tulips in the air a-winging,
And the gentle waves of the summer seas,
That raise their heads and wander singing,
Must murmur at last, ""Unjust, unjust';
And ""My speed is a weariness,' falters the mouse,
And the kingfisher turns to a ball of dust,
And the roof falls in of his tunnelled house.
But the love-dew dims our eyes till the day
When God shall come from the Sea with a sigh
And bid the stars drop down from the sky,
And the moon like a pale rose wither away.'

#######
BOOK II
#######

NOW, man of croziers, shadows called our names
And then away, away, like whirling flames;
And now fled by, mist-covered, without sound,
The youth and lady and the deer and hound;
"Gaze no more on the phantoms,' Niamh said,
And kissed my eyes, and, swaying her bright head
And her bright body, sang of faery and man
Before God was or my old line began;
Wars shadowy, vast, exultant; faeries of old
Who wedded men with rings of Druid gold;
And how those lovers
Keith J Collard Apr 2013
In Japan, there was an ice cold assassin, that rose through the ranks of the Lin Kuei Clan.   Mid snow flurry, he could avoid every flake, and seize the brittle crystal without breaking it.  He could walk on snow without sinking in, japan's cold winter, is when he was unopposed and most ruthless--slaying debtee and their family.  His ice cold ego, came into contact with a shaolin warrior, who was trained to feel the cold, and never run away from it, nor get used to it, but feel the chill everytime without hardening his self.  Sub-Zero was defeated but not killed, and scorned to the Gods during a snowstorm, " I am the better, and was defeated by a lessor, I appeal to the powerful, give me the power of ice, so that no one shall adapt to my soul's chill, give me the power and my clan shall be in service to you."

Then a snow crystal fell, bigger than most, and he clutched it, and looked in his palm, the crystal was in the form of a pentagram.  The wind whispered, " The most cold and still realm of hell will be in your veins, if you partaketh of this crystal."  And the power of ice, that no man could withstand was at his disposal, and he was locked in a contract, that was unbreakable.

He rose to leader of the clan, and changed the color of the assasin uniform to the color of the cold region of hell, and he could not find the shaolin warrior who defeated him, and so slayed his mentor.
One hot day, his soldiers came back defeated, by a pearl diver, who refused to pay tribute to their mafia.  Sub-zero impaled the clan's soldiers who had their uniform in tatters--by raising jagged ice spears from hell.  The ice never thawed, and the men never fully died, but looked up at the high cieling from their bespearment to a mosaic of an icy and lonely realm-- a message to anyone who fails the clan--that you shall be pierced and preserved.  Sub-zero took the rest to pay a visit to the pearl diver who had stained the Clan's uniform with the blood color of disgrace.

The pearl diver, was in the bay diving down to the bottom for pearls.  He felt the water suddenly get cold, and swam upward to the surface, where he came in contact with the surface of the water, frozen over, and he saw the boots walking over the ice.  They were holding heads that leaked onto the clear ice underfoot and as the pearl diver struggled for air underneath, he saw the heads of his family dropped onto the ice.
Then Sub-zero kneeled down, holding his wife's head to the drowning pearl diver, and placed it on the ice, so he shall see the horrid picture as he drowned underneath.  The Clan took leave, from the bay.

The pearl diver did not fear death, but went mad, as he sank downward into oblivion, staring upward, rage took over his once good heart, and he turned away to look into the depths, shouting " Let me born again, so I shall live a life of fire, so that anyone who dares come close, shall be scolded, GOD OF REVENGE, LET ME BE BORN AGAIN."
The pearl diver breathed in the water unblinking, and his heart stopped, but still he lived as he sank reaching the bottom and there was a scorpion at his feet, and the depths spoke, " Let this scorpion sting both your eyes, and command the fire of hell, and be born again, to melt the ice."
He took the scorpion--who glowed hot in the dark depths-- and stung his eyes, his pupils went from his eyes, leaving milk swirls as his ovals of revenge.  " Now let it snip your lips and chin, so that you may breath the painfull sting of fire upon your enemies without singing your own flesh."

The scorpion greedily ate his lips, tongue and chin, giving him a mouth guard of skull.  " Now you are born again Scorpion, arise, and REVENGE."

Scorpion, screamed, no longer a human voice, but demonic, and grabbed the chain from his boat anchor, and climbed. Upon reaching the ice barrier, he touched his hands to it, and burned a hole and emerged forth.  He pulled up the chain with ease into the air from the depths, the metal barb on the end that served as an anchor, was now for impaling hearts and not the sea bottom.  He snapped his arm and the chain coiled around his arm, ready to sail out to impale and bring his enemies up to his eyes, so they can feel the painfull sting of fire up close, and see Scorpions eyes.
He walked to shore, his feet singing and melting Sub-zero's ice as he walked.
His walk was illusive, as a flickering flame, Scorpion could not be percieved directly without mesmerizing, as a fire in total darkness.

He reached shore, and found a Clan member, he harpooned him with his chain and barb, and brought him close to his face with his chained anchor, and melted the henchman's face with his hot breath.
He stripped him naked with his curved pearl knife, and donned the uniform of the Lin Kuei, ice blue, then the uniform turned yellow from his hot blood underneath, turning the uniform yellow as if it was boiled alive in a ***.  Scorpions' veins serpentined on his forearms, his muscles always a'sweat and full of blood .  The color of his revenge was yellow, mocking the blue Lin Kuei's uniform with the color of cowardice.

He tracked down Sub-Zero to his Clan hall that resembled the cold layer of hell with victims adorning his walls and floors that were pierced by ice sculpture and still a 'quarter alive staring at the cieling.  Sub-Zero felt the slight thaw of his ice, and knew the presence of Scorpion.  

Scorpion flickered from the torches that bedecked the walls, and burnt the guards throats with his hands so they crawled around uselessly.  When a clan member espied the demonic ninja, Scorpion was behind him, breathing on his neck, and the guard fell to the ground in three pieces.

Sub-Zero's throne room, had no torch, no fire, and Scorpion could only enter without his flame illusion through the front tall doors.  
" You have fought your way into my layer, just to realize it is a glacial tomb assassin," saithe Sub-Zero.

" Scorpions demonic voice echoed to him, " YOU HAVE MURDERED DOWN THE PATH OF LIFE, BUT THE PATH WAS THE THROAT OF A DRAGON, AND I AM ITS BELLY, YOUR TOMB OF STINGING ACID."

Scorpion took Sub-Zero's eye from him with his harpoon chain, and beat him mercilessly with kick and punch.  Sub-Zero's summoned ice but it only melted near Scorpions hatred.  But the water from the melt, slowed Scorpion--so it was hand to hand by their opposite powers, negating their satanicly endowed powers.  

But Sub-Zero was the creator of Scorpion, and so had the advantage.  Being beaten, and his face smashed, his nose flattened to his face, exposed rib slats, and his testicles smashed, Sub-Zero feigned mortal injury and non-defence as Scorpion walked up with his milky eyes to do his finishing move.

Sub-Zero's forearm protruded in injury from Scorpions kick before, and formed a sharp dagger, and this dagger sunk in Scorpions brain from beneath his chin.  Sub-Zero won with the treachery he knew best.  But Scorpion's body turned to hell's flames, and melted the layer completely drowning the wounded Sub-Zero, killing him, as Scorpion himself died the second death being extinguished in cold water of the clan layer.



They were sent back to hell, and forced to stand side by side of eachother, as Satan's servants of fire and ice--still donned in the Lin Kuei assassin robe,belt, and face-guard.
All of the magmatic, scolding statalactites dripped behind Scorpion who stood before the entrance to the fiery region of hell.  He stared forward with his scolding white phosphorus eyes.

Behind Sub-Zero, was the still and frozen layer.  He stood next to Scorpion, to the entrance of his own realm, with pupils bordered by ice frozen rivulets.  The proximity to eachother was their hell, and Satan was their master.  Scorpions pyscho hatred heat always attacking Sub-Zero's callous cruel cold, and vice versa, so as they never became adapted to the terms of hell and eternity.
Joseph S C Pope Feb 2013
I

Wonderlandia, torn off the submerged lung
of a daydream diary.                   Reoccurs
as she does with silver eyes, weary Alice
during tea time--bullets burning past her
                                     like flowing nations.
Everyday similar tsunamis fund
                                     the lack of 20/20.
Nose to tail--the surge of angry engines
splits the ends of her blonde strands.
    Each one the last witness to maddening hospitality
--utopia never sweats as it talks and withers.
Amnesia blots,
new aspirin machines
vaporize apples and ***
on the other end of spectrum,
                                                     trans-positional labels--

Guillotine gargling teapots
       have no patience
         to the bushes of Olympus opiates
                                      bound in yellow barrier tape,
                     five o' clock traffic
               welcomes her back to what we are facing.


II


Dreary weather of late fall                       and her beautiful,
              powdered face

great mouth of atomic hell,
         when she speaks--80,000 deficiencies boil alive
                                                   --Trinity's teething test
                                                           on the tired bones
                                                   of a story-teller's raspy cards--

"None the wiser," she speaks,
                                "during the transition of ships
                   vermin turn into krakens culturing
                               on the surface of a raindrop.
    Heroes, villains, animals frozen together
                 after now eating for four days.
     The transition of one genocide
                                                        ­  to the other,
                the delineation of cat-and-mouse,
   mingle too long
   with the dead
   and its necrophilia."

                 Blind Alice wanders off the highway,
leaves her brewed cup of steamy static
on top of the unimportant saucer, sticks pins in her *******,
             and enjoys the sound of Cleopatra
             rolling over in reincarnation.


III

      Dear Alice smells
sunbathing, studded tangerines
                      assimilating liquor within the vast,
       empty, glowing nausea that is--
                        the warm germ

Oil                                    and                 ­          water
               rippled glass too silly for skulls
              made humid by distant salt water,

blood, acid, enzymes,
cheating probability
that runners with drunk kids
have blood between their toes.
                                                      Death­ to the distillation within
                                                    --the chronic diamond too polished
                                                       in *** to see the roses in her *****
    She curses these wood songs,
             heritage patriots with the pelts of wild lions
             with antlers over their heads,
                                                  faces advertising war paint
                                                applied by gargoyle hands
                    --sad memoirs always drink people
                                                  that use God as a cookie jar.


IV


  Gorgeous names
  on graffiti institutions give her a home
                                                         a market
                                                         a nickname
           still                  Alice only accepts Alice.

Grace periods where she misses tyranny
                  rise and fall like endorsed breathing.
    Now Alice feels her dress fall off,
                                  extinct years message future occupancy
                                  about what to wear.
New era, this era, past eras plead guilty
in a      clinic museum
             of forcing demons
              down the medical
              throats
of first graders. Court adjourns at 9:01 PM, Saturday

             The populus can sleep now,
                          but not her.
                 No one gave her clothes
                 to cover up the drained monochrome.


V

Instead she celebrates her flesh,
                                        the broken glass,
   and quakes and leads off to expose
           others to its potential vital prosperity.

         Instead
                     headlines like bumper cars read
                     about the beheading of weeks,
                     failing rescue missions,
                     and debates on teenage tolerance.

Nicotine intoxication points Alice
to over-extended memories--wards of music
sequenced to point out the extinction of marble tigers.
                        Only 550 expected to understand
                         tethered to millions able to survive.

  Flood waters look at moral standards, a mean hurricane
                                   that collapses the death toll
     all patented 50 states
     have a dating service
     and huff paint as a way
                              to pray to art.
                                                      Double­-canvas faces
                                                      dyed in pixel     hope
                                                       that the media levees hold,
             but volunteer to herd sheep into poppy seed fields.
                                            She refuses to stay,
                    to watch the long night
                    of castration on men with mud-covered ankles.
                                      Television says eunuchs want
                                       to be prodigal's children,
                                       everyone wants to come back home
                                       to mom and dad, safe zones, away
                                       from themselves.
                                                     ­                 It says our ancestors want
                                                            ­          this for all of us. They worked
                                                          ­            so hard to tie up the hair
                                                            ­          out of Aphrodite's face.

                                     They treasure the silver eyes of Alice,
                                          but call them blue,
                                                  they issue her high cholesterol
                                          but pump sweet ****** into he stomach,
                                                  they tell her to put down the drill,
                                            so she can finish their orchestra--

her lightning
    is
     a
  string
     of
  souls



VI


     She decides to depart Sunday,
to discover the ordinary beginning,
                        painting WHY? on its delirium.
re-arrangeable viewers become
                      inserted sounds under percussion and piano.

       Caging various important charts
                                          undetermined
   ­                           as finished attention.
                                                      ­              Three movements in flux
open end the people                     vacuuming
                            craftsmanship blocks
                   from                                dogs and zen.

                                                 The
                                 suspended letter               is happening in 1951
   drenched in existential white                                            spacing
        ­                                                   the viewer
                        from integrated architecture.

Down
the
bell is a structure called
"the quarantined wheelchair."
                               Dead ignorance changes pattern
                               after six movements of the second hand.
Alice speaks, "To you all, know
                                       that this is an un-dramatic situation.
          Everyday windows with the same
           participants have girls drinking
                                                     orange juice, activate fluid,
                    both exist as objects
                    and caught propaganda."

                                                   ­                      Six tunnel
                                                          ­      audiences are watching
                                                        ­        drown in the plastic silk
   her                                                       built by the motorized collage
                                                         ­                                        spider.

          Alice, a kinetic mannequin pop star
                        is limp in the glass point.
             Rhythmic flux is objectified war torture
                         censored in fitness magazines
by simple toilet literature.

                                        Six tunnels worth of eyes
                                 latch to the *******
                                           as a way to bury **** protesting.
                                  A coat of pepper spray
                                   works in front of the exhibition.
This stage is shaded by moans.


VII


      Alice the female, has a door-to-door friend
                                                          ­    over the sea
of the cathedral's ceiling               who died of disemboweled
pulchritude             at the mutilated nuclear other-place.
                     Her friend was a synthesized example
                     of staged catastrophes. Her friend is her, silver-eyed
                                                     ­                                             Alice.

            ­                     She performs herself and herself
                                 but they are played by polished, scored poets.

Everyone of them incorporates the events
                                 of a dancing gunshot. Everything rests
                                                           ­ at an intermission

               but after fifty minutes of pondering,
          the lost audience remembers
         her name is Alice.
                   So it comes back on with a shower of sweat
                  and this clear
                                  substance
               ­                                 called
                         ­                              patience.
       This composing, peering vulnerability
                        psychologically destroys the flux tension
              like analog genocidal dictators.
                                   Ultimately this is dream liquor

     commentating war to the war tree
      using trauma and chairs as humor.



VIII


               Patience on the water level lives translucent
                                            on networks that brand flesh
                                            with displaced identity.
Alice convinces us all that pickled ***
                                                             ­               takes eight years
                     to ****** and we accuse it
                                         of being fake. Afterwards, her character dies
in confident silence.


IX


     Not majestic, but she does cough
                  to mock the earth.
        The seeds of Alice are ripe,
                        harvested early, and now her children come out and dine
        like speaking tongues on gibberish.
                          The room is fat with hair

and kindness. Feeble, mundane hands chew on each other,
                                                         feet stand proud.
We even call her Alice or "the beautiful *******,
                                             a black cloud feasting
                                             in orange."
                       Everyone feasts on the nectar
                                                         she has, but never the rye
which makes her round. Juice is squeaking and her children laugh
                         as in competition.

     It's a distinguishable game as the mixed
                                                           ­      couple up front
              begin to play whistles as
                                         everyone eats
                   the pride of the silver-eyed Alice's children.


X

                                                ­ The children's souls
                                                       bow and say
                                           "Thank you for barely growing."
                                                   and dissipate after five minutes.

          "Curiouser                                   ­                                      and
           Curiouser"                                                       ­                   they
           say                                                              ­                        as
           they                                                             ­                       leave
           this                                                             ­                         homage.
                  The decimal backbone
                     of each of sweet Alice's
                                   blonde strands
                   divorced by the gust/ of a green light's/ allowance.


XI Epilogue*


  The day crawls away
                   a vigilant pest
     of the nocturnal project
                   --suns beam down still, like
                  stomachs of grinning felines
                           at Valentine's day.

toxic-dyed fingers
                        soldered
to bodies pittering across rainy streets

--legionnaires with hearts on stones
                         we are waiting for her orders,

     thistled-teeth clench,
                                         but did she
                                          actually
          ­                                ever come?
SuperCunt Jun 2019
Stick your fingers in my mouth.
Please.
Stick your fingers in my mouth.
Like I do.
Stick your hand down my throat,
Please.
Honey.
I’ll show you how.
To reach down my esophagus and rip the life out of me.
Like I do.
Mmm.
Just like that.

See? It’s not so hard.
Now do it again. And again and again and again and again.
Please.
BubbleZee Jun 2015
I want a Sunday kind of love—one that is as
comforting and warm as my favorite soft robe tied
tight around my ******* on a foggy morning.
The kind of morning that licks at my consciousness and
makes me still feel as if I’m dreaming—that hazy blur
where reality and my burning desire collides.
A love that wakes up with the sun, lips against my
shoulder smelling of last night’s whiskey kisses, strong
hands pulling me close, nestled into the soft
voluptuousness of my ******* and grabbing hold of your
dreams, the fit of an arm around my waist.
Our Saturday clothes full of adventure and sunlight will
be left carelessly crumpled on the floor of my room, little
bits of leaves and dirt scattered about—now nothing more
than just artifacts of our late night walk in the rain, but
still smelling like rusty promises and a desire so hot it
will singe your fingertips as they slowly undress me.
I want a Sunday kind of love.
Although you've been ******* me for a while now—
first my skepticism and sarcasm fell from my shoulders
like heavy stones to the bottom of a cold rushing river; I
stepped out of my insecurities and fears while you held
my hand and that now seem to have been misplaced
somewhere along the way.
My masks of who and what I should be that I wore for far
too long now collect dust and seem like nothing but sad
old memories that I have no need to cling to any longer.
Just when I will believe I couldn’t bare any more of
myself to you, you’ll take your hands and draw the soft
blue cotton of my dress up around my hips, my waist,
exposing my *******, over my head tossing it recklessly
aside ––and suddenly, there will be nothing left to hide
behind.
And so we will fall into the light of a thousand stars, the
dreams from the nightmares that woke us for far too long,
the sleepless nights and the breath choking in the back of
our throats, the words that burn to be said—all of it will
disappear into that one moment that will be caught in
between our lips as they meet.
And the night will last until the sun wakes us with her
light through heavy tender kisses, scratches along
ripened exposed skin deep with a passion and a fervent
rocking desire that will leave us both breathless.
It will be a night of sweet strawberry whiskey, the haze of
smoke circling around our heads and opening up our
eyes. It will be fiery grilled peaches sweetened with rose
honey and melted vanilla ice cream, it will be a million
moments that all will come down to one.
The moment where a Saturday Night turns into a Sunday
Morning.
I want a Sunday kind of love.
Last night’s laughter will still echo in the back of our
throats, but we will have lost our voices to the softness of
a Sunday morning. Barely speaking above a whisper I
will trace all of my secrets onto your skin with my lips,
waking you from your sleep as I press my bottom against
you, not needing words, because you will already know
what I want.
My mouth will seek out your neck, my fingertips tracing
the steps of a thousand journeys that have finally brought
you to me, and I’ll take you in my mouth, saying good
morning to you in the only way that I know how.
My bedroom hair will be messy and tangled, nothing but a
fallen halo of ***** nonsense falling over and around you
as I move, daring you to ever leave this bed.
Soft heirloom quilts holding the dreams of tomorrows in
shades of blues and greens like my eyes, but not nearly
as deep––or as passionate—especially when you’re the
one I’m looking at.
Mottled light through the shades creating warm shadows
across our skin, leaving the softness of bed wearing
nothing as I toss a smile over my shoulder and I leave
you lying in bed wondering how you ever got here, and
yet at the same time, how could you possibly ever leave.
I’ll bring you a heavy mug of steaming coffee smelling
like the exotic hills of Peru and tasting almost as sweet
as me, and though we will have every intention of
drinking it, the mugs will sit growing cold, as at first we
will laugh until I begin moving against you once again,
and you unable and unwilling to resist will come to play
with me once more.
I want a Sunday kind of love.
Eventually we will rise, and I’ll put on your worn t-shirt I
picked up from the floor—just because I can—and,
barefoot with music playing, I’ll make us pancakes.
Swaying my hips as I mix and fry them over a hot griddle,
the oil spitting and biting at my bare skin, just like I’ve
done a thousand mornings before—except this time I’ll be
making them for you.
We’ll sit in the dappled sunlight and have breakfast, the
air smelling like bacon and fresh coffee, and I’ll watch
your eyes as you see the maple syrup trickle down my
chin and land on the rise of my ******* begging to be
licked off by your hungry mouth.
I’ll ask you to leave the dishes where they are as I say I’ll
be in the shower if you want to join me—although there
was never a question as to if you would.
Because this is a Sunday kind of love; one that begs to
stay undressed and tasted slowly, one that lingers on our
lips long after it's passed.
I want a Sunday kind of love.
Julian Dorothea Apr 2013
I cried at the breakfast table this morning
my father carefully explained,
"wives must be submissive to their husbands"
"housecleaning is the domain of the woman"
"God created woman because man asked for a partner"

This past semester I wrote two papers

One, a fire and brimstone sermon
          I quoted Anais Nin
          sending the creators of sexist commercials to eternal suffering
          "**** them!" I said. "May they burn in hell."
          For the women they portrayed were doormats
          Misconceptions
          Monsters

The other, the role of women in the 1920s,
           No longer confined to the kitchen
           they dropped ballots with their new freedom
           they wore short dresses and short tresses
           fingers wrapped around cigs
           they quoted Wilde instead of Alcott
           they danced until their feet hurt
       
I read of Anais Nin's "new woman,"
her partnership, not submission to man,

I craved a room of my own, neigh demanded it
For sheep stayed in the kitchen,
The Woolf had a study.

I read poetry
Sexton,
Plath,
I wept for their starved, depressed selves
caged, suffocating inside the clasped hands of a man.
Loved like rib-cage jails.

Adrienne Rich made me angry,
her daughter-in-law
forever trying to fit into a box
she was always too big for, spilling
at the edges, her shaved
legs like "white mammoth tusks"

I was finally
happy with my womanhood.

******, ******, *****, *******
they are mine.
******* free to move unrestrained,
jiggling under my shirt.
Wetness between my thighs.
Menstrual blood,
they are mine.

mine.

I am not ashamed of what I am
because there is no shame.

I am woman,
I am girl,
I am lady.
I am a creature
with a voice
a mind.

a creature who endured much abuse,
continue to endure.

I am woman

and I don't have to be wife or mother
unless I want to be.
I was not created for man;
I was created for the same reason he was,
to serve the same great purpose on this tiny blue dot.

I am not rib.

I am ******, ******, *****, *******
******* free, unrestrained,
Wetness between my thighs.
Menstrual blood,

I am a per.
I am a wo.
I am a hu.

Man and son need to back down,
collaborate not dominate,
speak not command,

for when less are forced into silence,
the maddening scream
hidden inside skin and bones and muscle-meat
becomes song.

this world of car horns and tire screeches
crying and wailing from raw throats
angry protests of indignation

could use a little music.
Spur of the moment. Written after breakfast. Help me edit it, please? :)
I.

Hear the sledges with the bells—
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they ******, ******, ******,
In their icy air of night!
While the stars, that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells—
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

II.

Hear the mellow wedding bells,
Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight!
From the molten golden-notes,
And all in tune,
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
On the future! how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells—
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!

III.

Hear the loud alarum bells—
Brazen bells!
What a tale of terror now their turbulency tells!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright!
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire
Leaping higher, higher, higher,
With a desperate desire,
And a resolute endeavor
Now—now to sit or never,
By the side of the pale-faced moon.
Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
What a tale their terror tells
Of Despair!
How they clang, and clash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour
On the ***** of the palpitating air!
Yet the ear it fully knows,
By the twanging,
And the clanging,
How the danger ebbs and flows;
Yet the ear distinctly tells,
In the jangling,
And the wrangling,
How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells—
Of the bells—
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells—
In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!

IV.

Hear the tolling of the bells—
Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night,
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
   Is a groan.
And the people—ah, the people—
They that dwell up in the steeple.
    All alone,
And who toiling, toiling, toiling,
  In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
  On the human heart a stone—
They are neither man nor woman—
They are neither brute nor human—
    They are Ghouls:
And their king it is who tolls;
And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
         Rolls
A paean from the bells!
And his merry ***** swells
With the paean of the bells!
And he dances, and he yells;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the paean of the bells—
    Of the bells:
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
  To the throbbing of the bells—
Of the bells, bells, bells—
  To the sobbing of the bells;
Keeping time, time, time,
  As he knells, knells, knells,
In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells—
Of the bells, bells, bells—
To the tolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
  Bells, bells, bells—
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.
Having Depression is like finding out that mermaids are real
It doesn’t make sense to you until you’re getting dragged to the bottom of the ocean
And then you think
Oh
That’s what this is
And I’m drowning now,
That’s just……… great
And eventually, with your last vestiges of breath left
You float back to the surface
And you’re fine.
And that’s it.
Mermaids stop existing again.
Because you never actually saw what grabbed you
You only felt the claws around your leg
The cold, clammy hands tugging
With a force that you could never fight against
But you never saw her
So it was all a dream
Right?
And it happens again and again
You are drowning again and again
Until the water begins to feel like home
And the only thing reminding you that you are alive
Is the burning in your lungs
And when everything you had balanced so very carefully starts falling
Off the shelves of your life
When your “mild” depression starts deciding it wants to be more
When being alone makes you feel dead inside
And when losing your cool for one ******* second makes you contemplate your own demise
When do you admit to yourself that you are slipping
You are sinking and just because you can slow your descent
Does not mean that you’re not still drowning
And at the end of the day just because it took you longer to get there this time
Doesn’t mean you aren’t still lying on the ocean floor
Devoid of light and sound
And if you had just climbed onto that now distant boat and sailed away
You’d be fine.
But climbing was too hard
And sinking is so much easier
And you’re scared that if you reach out
Your hands will feel clammy and cold
As they wrap around your friends throats
And drag them down with you
And you would rather rot at the bottom of an endless sea
Than let that happen
So you lie in darkness and wait
For a sound
The singular resounding sound
Of failure
And you slowly float back to the surface
Take a deep breath
And you’re fine.
Because mermaids aren’t real
It’s all in your head
This is normally performed aloud, but I wanted to share it with you all, as well
Kagey Sage Dec 2013
****** affliction of a lack of affection companion
Hand and hand strolling greater than syrupy plunging
and even sometimes buddy shrugging over wooden noisemakers
We whistle with their metal strings
and through the pasta soft ones in our throats
but no nest colored mares seem to hear
our flamboyant feather calls for future fondling
So I scribe slight implied short letters
invites to drink joints and nature jaunts
All too well thought out
hoping your advanced technology cannot trace
the time I spent to type
The overanalysis of our psych: her and I’s
wondering why she doesn’t have an inkling
for a cute fall date where we attempt to bake apple pies
It’s all too contrived, I know
I’ll strive for delusion
Accept a useful interpretation for our chemical inflammation
and let sparks pass it by
Like itsy bitsy flies laying eggs in a wound
for stagnant water maggots
They’ll eat away the thought well
where all my cranial zaps seem to dwell.
A Watoot Jul 2015
Maybe I'm too fat
Maybe I eat like a man
Maybe I've got no poise
Maybe I'm too loquacious
Maybe I...

Honestly, I know.

I know my tongue slashes throats and
My eyes asphyxiates.

I know my personality is too strong for a little person
That I amaze and scare at the same time.

I know I'm a strong lady- *too strong for you to handle.


That's why I have been able to stand up from where you pushed me.
That's why I am able to think of myself.
That's why I am not blaming love but the person in love.


Honestly, I know
That you can't take the blades of my tongue

Honestly, I know
That you can't say I'm beautiful

Honestly, I know
That you do not love me like how I love you

Honestly, I know
That you are selfish

Honestly, I know
That I am now seeing truth

After all these weeks of crying my eyes out,

I'm back.

because honestly i know
that you are a *****
Ugo Jul 2012
The beauty of comatose can only be seen through
the eyes of a wizard in a blizzard
strutting in garlic slippers,

or Christ with knees bent at the tabernacle
peeling bananas and kicking prayers
farther than eternity with each gapping second,

or like Basquiat slumped back to the wall,
with ounces of speedball dancing through his veins,
eating 80’s free-based fried chicken *******  

as his eyelids paints beautiful nightmares of lemon flowers
and Bacchus bacon over a glycopyrrolate desert
of flagrant cuckold buffoonery.

Or like leprechauns burning chocolate ******* candles
on the mantle of Zion, sipping oatmeal sprinkled
with Staten Island malt liquor bacon.

or like Tupac reading the thoughts of Mother Shipton
through the daze of California cannabis
and hearing the ominous voice of Plutarch sing death assignments

from heaven to Assassins on horsebacks goggling ***** water
to wet the dry bones of their throats as they prepare to fulfill
the gospel of self-fulfilling prophecies of being fell by ***** bullets.

Or like sophisticated wallets of spice and kitchen characters in a bald head
cooking chemical kisses and 18 February nights under Moloch’s skin,
where constitutions are written in charcoal diaries with Egyptian ciphers and razors.

“I had rain sowed into the pockets of my sneakers and composed 1310 eulogies
at the basement of king David’s tower,” said the Kraftwerkian caricature,
as he dangles cigarettes in remembrance of Klaus Nomi and philosophizes on the proliferation
of poetic vandalism at urinals where modernism failed under the phosphorescence of coloration at the avenue of no trees where Picasso's "Guernica" **** Lies All.
http://www.amazon.com/OLAF-Nothing-Above-Fiction-ebook/dp/B009XZ9OVY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid;=1353822133&sr;=8-1&keywords;=olaf+last+king+of+nothing
Lyn-Purcell Aug 2018


The folding screen stands tall in the
Splendid Paramour's room, the glory
kissed further by the sun-dappled
tree light that spilled through her window.
A painted surface of honeyed-gold that
can only be found from a blooming sun,
with edges as purple as her lover's robes.
Or at least it was. Now all she sees is the
shade of countless wine-stains, the shades
of many flowering bruises.

One each of the panels, chrysanthemums in
bloom, ever so vibrant; pomegranate red,
mimosa gold, mint green. Her slender finger
stroked one of glacial blue, while her eyes
fell on the one of wedding white, pure and
innocent. She recalled a dream she had the
night before. She was standing in a barren
field with many holes; her obsidian hair,
long straight and loose, her lithe body in a
simple white robe.

She saw faceless figures made of silver vapour,
all speaking secrets into various holes before
they ceased into nothing. From their buried
words bloomed chrysanthemums, each singing,
each whispered, joyous thoughts to heart-
wrenching songs. Re-opening her eyes, she
walked behind her folding screen, out of gold
light, into the purple shade. On the back was
hand-painted with plum blossoms that decorated
the cloak of snow. On the floor, a simple
embroidered pillow.

Upon the simple table, her four great treasures;
an ink stick made from animal oil, printed with
orchids;
"For you are my eternal pledge of beauty," she
heard her lover coo, but she shook the thought
away. Next, a black ink stone that was carved
with a dragon and phoenix - a painful tug of her
heart; brush made of goat hairs; tip was soft and
flextile; "Paint your mind for me, my love," he
cooed again as she bit her lower lip.
And finally, small sheets of paper. "Born only
from bamboo," she muttered so bitterly.

"My sweet Meihua," she felt his palm on her
cheek. "None will replace you, my Splendid
Paramour. Ever so noble, always so virtuous."
And after the memory came the pain; her lover
was a dragon, none above him but the Gods,
but his beautiful face distorted for he had a
dragon's temper; the dripping wine-stains,
and blooming bruises.

She began to grind the ink-stick on the
ink-block, until she had a small silk-oil
point. Raising her brush, she dipped the
tip in the ink and now, she would paint
the words of her mind. In the comforts of
room, soundless, she painted her heart
that remained unhealed.

In the her lover's arms, the Dragon's
arms, she had hoped to be his Empress,
his doting phoenix, that would rise
through the skies, forever entwined in
a dance of love, soaring through nimbus
big and small. But alas, that would never
be. Not anymore...
The wine-stains, the budding bruises.
Her path strewn by fellow Consorts
long dead, with silk wrapped around
their throats, or poisons on their tables,
or even crimson flowers leaking out of
their sliced wrists.

She wrote and wrote on, blinking away
the stinging from her eyes, casting her
her dreams of being a Worthy Consort
aside, as she would with her name,
the one he granted her, 'Meihua',
the dragon's flowering plum. But if
she did, what would she be?
A girl, a ghost that bears no name.

"He saw me as virtuous," she said, "he
saw me as noble, until..." That accursed
moment, the wine-stains, the sprouting
bruises. She shivered even though her
palace was warm, but to her, it was cold.
Forever cursed to be cold.

Without the dragon's presence, she felt
so alone. No family nor friend - no soul
in sight. Naught to talk to in her blight.
For now he cursed Meihua to wither and
fade.
"My love," she whimpered. "My love,
Return. I would do anything for you to
return."

Once she painted out her heart on the
bamboo page, she pulled a dagger from
her billowing sleeve.

Fate had closed her chapter,
it was never meant to be.
Years and tears of love had
made her blind in one eye.


There was ALOT of turmoil I needed to write out.
In other news, this is my 700th poem! ^-^
This was inspired by a folding screen I saw in a museum once (from the Tang Dynasty, I believe), and it was so beautiful! If only it could talk...
And I was inspired by the Four Gentlemen, too! ^-^
Hope you enjoy it! I'm planning on continuing The Letter,
so hopefully, it'll be out tomorrow! ^-^
Thanks again, everyone!
Lyn ***

— The End —