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Pleasure, oh pleasure sitting in silence
Among the lime trees
The silence of delight
A perfect pardon
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
No hurry, no hurry
To go anywhere
While strangers offer smiles
Such perfect smiles
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
Magic a specialisation
A practical specialisation
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
People of all kinds
Come streaming by
Pilot people
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
People passing with such power
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
All power is violence
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
Pleasure, oh pleasure
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
No power is needed here
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
Only truth and justice
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
No grievous ache remains a mystery
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
That purple mass made clear
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
An aroma here
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
An exuding stupefying aroma
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
That startles the sparrows
Identical sparrows
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
Other silence is unequal
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
A quivering tenor of silence
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
Gilded silence that flashes
Hazily across the vision
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
Frenzied silence, irresistible silence
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
Silence split into fragments
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
Fragments that remain intact
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
Silence that vanishes from sight
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
A severed silence
That remains infused
Golden and deceptive
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
Like split up bandits
On the run
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
Who race up two
Different boulevards
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
A day return silence
Always nervous and irritable
Sitting her in silence
Among the lime trees
A softening handsome
Lilac colored silence
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
Regal in its resonance
Of romance
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
A silence of scarlet kerchiefs
Wears a tail coat
Has black raven hair
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
Trying to catch spiders
Rats, little devils and dogs
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
Day breaks
Inexorably in silence
Over the poet
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
The unstoppable
Silence of silence
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
Such silence once started
Is unstoppable
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
Such as the strange silence
One finds in snow
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
Silence in a deserted shout
Sitting here in silence
Among the lime trees
Oh such silent noise
Such silent noise
Silent noise, silent
a yellowish shroud
is placed hurriedly
upon starched white sheets
revealing vicious contrasts

where the cullan trees lie
where the cullan trees lie

its Hessian appearance
an omen, a foretold event
like breathing deeply in a silence
amidst the history of a great disorder

where the cullan trees lie
where the cullan trees lie

violent ink stains
on folding parchment
embalm themselves
upon the thickness of a sorrow

where the cullan trees lie
where the cullan trees lie

placed deep within
shallow subterranean depths
of an enigmatic being
that is both engineering and entrenching

where the cullan trees lie
where the cullan trees lie

its perplexing sensations causing
a wonderful ingrained passion
to erupt with imponderable abstracts
where truth does not exceed exception

where the cullan trees lie
where the cullan trees lie

the shroud provides a false tranquillity
where there is no longer breath
imposes itself unobtrusively
with wonderful staccato caresses

where the cullan trees lie
where the cullan trees lie

it proclaims an innocence of salvation
yet gives gauge to spectacular routes
and an enormity of misconceptions  
amid prestigious beatifications

where the cullan trees lie
where the cullan trees lie

oh sweet smelling blue abyss
oh deluded reality
dressed in a winding sheet
of meaningless words

where the cullan trees lie
where the cullan trees lie

wrapped in phrases of falsehood
amidst this purgatorial fog
a twilight world of mysterious ailments
maintains a world of external restraints

where the cullan trees lie
where the cullan trees lie

creates and emptiness, a vacancy
provides an intoxication of vision
a strangeness of sensation
a world transparent

where the cullan trees lie
where the cullan trees lie

read the sentences of silence
breathe the perfume of never fading flowers
and see for the first time
the unfinished likeness of others

where the cullan trees lie
where the cullan trees lie
g clair Oct 2013
"We will be replacing the curb and parts of the sidewalk. The trees will need to be cut down along with the one in the middle, We have marked them with pink ties."

Wha????

Two Towering Old Maple Trees
Our trees.
each bordering the sidewalk
but also near the curb
in front of our house
each holding memories
which go back beyond my ability to remember,
and yet each a solid part of my growing up in this house...
When I first met my husband and he would park his 68 Camaro under one of them. I was still climbing trees at 16. My sister carved her name and her bf name in the same tree. They were always there. ALWAYS. Like something you just KNOW is going to be there. Strong. Withstanding any weather for 52 years. Like our dad. Steadfast present trees. Part of our existence. Planted by the township when my parents moved here in '61 just before my birth. Part of me. Us. Our family. Our lives.

Shock. Utter disbelief. Anger. Bargaining. Acceptance? Not yet.

Our beloved Maple trees. Our beloved littler tree, now growing strong. Shade and privacy. Beauty. Sweetness. Life. Seasons. Cycles. Strength. Presence.
Our beloved trees. Two are steady and strong at 52 years are now towering over our house,
beautifying our street along with many others.
A younger tree, a sycamore? ( has those little helicopter seedlings that spin when they come down) ,  is center stage, next to our mailbox, but towers just the same
next to our mailbox. Leaves are still green.

" Will you also need to remove that one?"

"Yes.: They all have to come down."

" But...but...."

"Has to be done. The roots ruin the sidewalk. We will be replacing the sidewalk as well."

"And will you be replacing the trees?"

"No but you can plant new ones on your property."

"Okay..........thanks."

Shock. Tears.

I vow to the smaller one that I will find a way to pull it up...transplant it just a few safe feet away."

I am broken. I just lost my father who LOVED our property. Loved this street with it's trees.

I am in tears as I type this. I can never tell my mother, who moved away a month ago. She is equally in love with our trees and was always frustrated when the township would come along and cut the branches so they could not touch each other across the road. WE LOVE our canopy of maples and now the  ORIGINAL development with the OLD trees, the apple of my father's eye...my mother's eyes will become like a desert.  It was one of the only things Mom and Dad had in common, a love of our trees. The shade trees. What else is there?

Oh..... I will take photos. I will take movies. I will save branches. I will fall apart. I will go out tomorrow and buy two Bradford Pears and place them in exactly the same spot except on our side...to distract me from the carnage. I don't know HOW I am going to deal with the trees coming down. It's like taking part of my house down. The sadness comes in waves. It brings back the loss of my dad. It is dad's birthday today. Would have been 85.

I am so glad my father and my mother did not have to see this. THANK YOU GOD for that much. And for the Pear Trees which will flower in the spring and grow tall. Thank you. I am not okay but I will be. We will be. We will plant again. "Restore the Shore Club".  

My mom always called our neighborhood 'Shore Club' as that was it's proper name when it was established, but it came to be known by it's current name, Hamtown, later.
Autumn Apr 2017
Trees are wiser.
Trees are stronger.
Trees are most content.

Trees are taller.
Trees live longer.
Trees do not need shelter.

Trees are tougher.
Trees don't complain.
Trees have the most secrets and stories untold.

Trees are rooted deep.
Trees reach the clouds.
Trees provide homes to animals,
and us.

The greatest providers.
Trees are incomprehensible.
Trees have been since the beginning of time.

If you need advice...
Ask a nearby tree.
jonni inferno Jul 2018
i met her    
in a waking dream    
as i walked beside    
the sylvar stream    
whose chattering laughter    
shifted suddenly    
into a sylvar pool    
of enchanted silence    
a mirrored glaze    
in muted    
misty
dawning rays    
    
her cascading mane    
a crimson flare    
sea-green eyes    
alluring stare    
my heart stopped    
to see her there    
reposed    
'pon a verdant garden lee 
beside    
the misting sylvar mere    
'neath    
the weeping willow trees    
    
dahlia lips    
whispering desire    
vermilion plunder splayed    
spellbound 
by her charms    
heart pounding    
thundering    
captured    
i stay    
an' wi' faire
lithesome beauty lay    
'pon a lush an' vibrant field    
beside    
the misting sylvar mere    
'neath    
the weeping willow trees    
    
we lay there    
lost in time    
locked    
in the silence 
of kindred minds    
an' i knew her name    
tho she spoke it not    
sipped i then
the misty morning dew    
from precious lips
that from me drew    
all that i    
ever thought    
or felt    
or knew
'pon the grasses lush and green    
beside    
the softly glowing mere    
'neath    
the weeping willow trees    
    
soft sings    
the whippoorwill    
the meadowlark    
an' mourning dove    
their voices weaving spells    
for lover's yearning hearts    
in the meadow    
by the way    
where my love an' i    
do lay    
entwined  
'pon the gleaming sylvan shore    
beside    
the shining crystal lake    
'neath
the weeping willow trees    
    
alas    
the dawning days    
were passing
when came malevolence    
within
a thund'ring tempest    
lightnings flashed
in ragged gashes
'cross the heaven's    
stygian passes
an' from those
gnawing caverns
spewed
a raging
howling
demon's brood
an' down flew they
by the sylvar stream
where my love
and i
entranced
did lay
beside
the mystic sylvar lake
'neath
the weeping willow trees
    
then from my arms    
vile creatures tore    
my lifesong    
my heart's blood    
my one    
and only love
her scintillating form    
they ripped    
her silent
piercing cries    
bleeding    
thru my soul
an' took her they  
far from this    
battered    
desert shore    
as her soundless    
painful    
chorus fades    
an' leaves me
here alone    
to lay    
'pon these shifting lifeless sands    
beside    
this sylvar lake of tears    
'neath    
the weeping willow trees    
    
the meadowlark    
her spellsong sings    
thru ebon winter's    
weathering    
the silver stream    
her laughter froze    
this heart    
once fire    
a soulless stone    
    
so now this raven
winged    
doth fly
to scour the bruised    
an' shadowed skies    
to find my dove    
an' bring her home    
to lay
'pon these frozen brittle stones
beside
the darkened sylvar tarn
'neath    
the weeping willow trees    
    
thru timeless age    
an' dangerous realms    
i followed    
her silent    
morbid    
ravenings    
as her grisly    
mewling pleas    
hollowed out my soul    
'til at last    
i found her    
chained an' bound    
lost    
deep within    
peculiar planes    
an' baneful realms    
far from    
the laughing sylvar stream    
far from    
the weeping willow trees    
    
her lament    
of bitter tears    
an' fear    
sliced    
thru my defenses    
a doomed    
pernicious heart    
she was    
wandering    
thru deepest depths    
where madness reigns    
all hope destroyed    
hell's minions    
reveled
unconstrained    
    
my dove    
called i    
my love    
'tis i    
once more    
thrice more  
time  
and time again    
till finally    
she hearkened    
to my voice    
    
true love    
recall us    
you and i    
dancing    
thru ageless realms    
consider us    
twirling    
under heaven's wings    
she
spinning
at my fingertips

an' i  
drew her then    
breathless    
into my arms    
ambrosia lips    
her sweet alms    
from her dark pain    
i did drink    
of her    
malignant sorrow    
i did partake  
my questing    
thirsting hunger    
willingly  
did i sate  
gathering all    
her shattered pieces    
from those altered    
blighted    
reaches
    
chains    
now broken    
i carried her
'pon wings    
of true love's    
sylvar light    
far from    
these darksworn legions    
into    
the dawning night's    
farthest regions    
    
an' there    
close by    
the laughing    
whispering    
sylvar stream    
lay her gently    
'pon the verdant flowing shore    
beside
our gleaming slyvar mere    
'neath    
our weeping willow trees    
    
under glimmering    
starlit heavens    
sing    
the whippoorwill    
the meadowlark    
an' mourning dove    
whose soulful songs    
compose    
for yearning lovers    
charms of hope    
where pools    
the laughing    
sylvar stream    
whose mirrored gaze    
draws us deep within    
celestial    
starlit    
wanderings    
  
as the wind    
whispering
sighs    
thru our hearts  
as we lay entwined    
'pon a verdant garden lee    
beside  
our misting sylvar mere    
'neath  
our silent    
weeping  
willow trees    
      
p j upchurch
Steelhaven Nov 2015
If the trees could speak, I would say

"Tell me all you've seen."

And then, rest my head at the arch of the root, fasten my ears to the crass bark and listen.

For trees do not see.

They would thrum and resonate amidst their circles and squares,

To the inner tempo of the earth and to that rhythm, I would match—beat for beat—with the constance of my own heart.

For trees do not see.



If the trees could speak, I would cry,

"Tell me all you've felt."

I would climb their branches and hide amidst their leaves, limb around limb and still myself,

For trees feel no pain.

I would query about their inhabitants,

Whose nests and hives I wish not to disturb.

Lest I get stung, and not them,

For trees feel no pain.



If the trees could speak, I would sigh,

"Tell me all you've known."

And I would lie in the shade of their generosity,

For trees do not know.

The moon and sun would chase each other like lovers overhead,

They will never meet, but nobody tells them that.

Not the trees,

For trees do not know.



If the trees could speak, I would mourn,

"Tell me all you are."

And I would wait for an eternity,

For trees do not speak.

But they will, with honor, pull my bones asunder,

Before the wind weathers us down.

I would die then, a silent passing with their audience, and nobody would ever find the remains.

Nobody could.

For trees do not speak.
Almighty Emperor Feb 2015
Trees are for birds.
Trees are for children.
Trees are to make tree houses in.
Trees are to swing swings on.
Trees are for the wind to blow through.
Trees are to hide behind in "Hide n Seek"
Trees are to have tea parties under.

Trees are for kites to get caught in.
Trees are to make cool shade in summer.
Trees are to make no shade in winter.
Trees are for apples to grown on and pears.
Trees are to chop down and call"TIMBER-R-R!"
Trees make mother say,
"What a lovely picture to paint!"
Trees make father say
"What a lot of leaves to rake this fall!'

                                 -almighty emperor(Premanand)
the trees
the trees
what ever happened
to the trees
once our scenery
had acres and acres
of trees
but over the years
we've purged
far too many trees

yet the trees are so vital
in the natural world's ecology
for their leaves perspiring assists
the rain cycle's hydrology

we've not replaced
the trees we've taken down
hence why we've now few of them
in our environment's crown

and our countryside
suffers prolonged dry spells
the trees were such
precious fillers of rives and wells

the trees
the trees
what ever happened
to the trees
once our scenery
had acres and acres
of trees
but over the years
we've purged
far too many trees
#trees  #deforestation  #drought  #precipitation  #ecology #nature
Roisin Sullivan Aug 2013
Two trees they stood far apart
Across the waves of grass.
And although these trees grew apart
The two became friends fast.

Until two men had decided
That there must be a line
And these trees should be divided
Would happen to be fine.

Eventually, arose a wall
And the men were content
The trees could not be seen at all
Pleased with good effort spent.

The years passed by and time went on
The two men aged and died.
But the two trees remained fond
And every fall they cried

Meanwhile the trees grew and grew
Spreading out their branches
When one day there came something new
And what were the chances?

That pollen drifted from the tree
And came to the other
Caressed it in the warm spring breeze
Like an eager lover.

In the summer a tiny sprout
Had grown near to the wall
Each day it grew more stout
But it neglected to grow more tall.

The days and weeks and months passed by
Until the tree grew strong
And all three trees were intertwined
Where all of them belonged.

The great wall crumbled, then it fell
Just as the three trees swayed.
All three let out a joyful yell
As none there were dismayed

But time passes as per always
And winter came at last
The two trees passed into a phase
Where neither tree could last.

But the youngest one did not fall
Instead it grew *****
By far the greatest of them all
But doesn't love have that effect?

And then one day a tree did grow
A place along the way.
So graceful did her branches flow
Always ready to play.

Two trees they stood far apart
Across the waves of grass;
And although these trees grew apart
The two became friends fast.
N.P.
Dorothy A Oct 2013
Trees (haiku #1)

Tree wood with fire
Nature equips survival   
Light, heat, and cooking

-------------------------

Trees (haiku #2)

Leafy beings, green
Wood umbrellas, ancient roots
Growing, reaching sky

-------------------------------

Trees (haiku #3)

Pluck the tender fruit
Motherly branches feed all
Body and soul, blessed

---------------------------------

Trees (haiku #4)

Shelter for our homes
Furniture within our walls
Uses-myriads

--------------------------------

Trees (haiku #5)

Pencils, books, paper
Education thanks to trees
Writing, poetry

-------------------------------

Trees (haiku #6)

Trees crafted, songs sung
Guitars, violins, harps-more
Wood, melodious

---------------------------------

Trees ( haiku #7)

Birds, critters depend
Harmonious relations
Trees magical grace

------------------------------

Trees (haiku #8)

Bountiful beauty
Standing upright or chopped down
More precious than gold
David W Jul 2016
The Defeat*

And so I wander,
Into fading trees,
As if to seek out shelter,
In gold shifting beams
My prayer for peace and solace,
Rises to the leaves,
And into fading trees I go,
To seek among the beams.

Why wander into fading trees,
Perhaps
To seek comfort where
No man’s angry foot has set
Or find some shelter, for,
No evil trespassed there.
Perhaps to fading trees I go,
To sleep beneath the beams.

Why into fading trees to flee,
At once,
To beneath shifting shadows find,
Or deep inside,
A place where broken things may hide,
Or high above.
So into fading trees I go,
Perhaps to learn to fly.

These fading trees their hair let down,
Their ancient heads they bow.
Amongst the fading trees I’ve found,
There is no comfort now.
Their gentle arms are withered up,
Their brilliant light died out,
Amongst the fading trees I’ve found,
All life has faded out.

So into fading trees I leave,
My love,
My prayer for peace and silence,
Their leaves will never hear,
I go to sleep, to die,
to live and let it be,
My fading trees have faded out,
That once had carried me.
A tribute to the oldest of friends.
Roma Carlo Aug 2012
The branches of the trees were almost breaking under the weight of the fruit that sprang from amongst their leaves. All through the garden, men and women of all ages were making preparations to harvest the fruit from the trees they had planted generations ago. Some years, the harvest was poor, and other years the harvest surpassed even the most optimistic of expectations, but the people always had enough to get them through the winter.

As they wheeled their carts underneath the trees and erected ladders to reach the tallest of branches, there was a feeling of satisfaction amongst the people. They had worked hard all year, and for the first year in five they began the harvest knowing they would have more than enough fruit to get them through even the harshest of winter months. The sun shone down on still waters, reflecting the reds and purples and greens of the trees, and all through the garden there was joy.

High on the hill, where trees did not lay their roots and water restlessly hurried by, a face peered out through a dusty window. The sounds of the horses and laughter of the people had roused the man from his slumber. As he looked down he saw the tree tops spreading below him, and with each moment that passed the colour seemed to leak from the branches, and at the same time the carts disappeared under mountains of fruit. His mouth began to water at the realisation that it was the harvest season, and soon his hunger would be satisfied.

Each year, the elders of the village would oversee the harvest. They knew what needed to be done, having been a part of it since they could walk on their own two feet. The children would play amongst the trees and the carts, observing the older boys and girls at work, and looking forward to the day when they might play a larger part of this festive occasion.

It was late in the afternoon. The sun had long since passed its zenith, and slowly the carts made their way to the village. At the foot of the apple tree, a boy tugged at the sleeves of an old man who had slipped into sleep in the afternoon heat. His eyes opened, and he looked at the child tugging at his sleeve. Satisfied that he had the man’s attention, the boy asked “Why does the man who lives on the hill not come and help us with the harvest? I saw him looking from his window, yet he did not emerge from his house. He is the only man for miles around who does not lend his hand to the harvest. Is he afraid?”

The old man bowed his head as he listened to the boys concern. He knew very well of the man the boy spoke about. There was a time, many years ago, when he would help with the harvest. Then, one year, he broke his leg after falling from a horse a few weeks before the harvest. The people had told him to rest, that they would manage the harvest without him. So he had sat and watched as everyone else did the work without him.

The next year, when harvest time came around again, the man thought to himself “Last year, the harvest went fine without my help, and this year, we have much less fruit to pick. Surely it would be a waste of my time to help.” And so instead of helping, he pretended he was sick and stayed at home.

Over the years, he spoke less and less to the men and women of the garden, until one day, he suddenly stopped leaving his house. He would say to himself “Why should I help with the work? Everyone manages fine without me. They plant the crops and tend to the trees, and still there is enough food left for everyone – including me – to eat. It would be a waste of my life to help when it is not necessary. No, I shall stay here and enjoy the comfort of my chair.”

The only time the people would see the man was once a year after the harvest when he came into the village to collect provisions from the stores. “Where have you been,” they would ask “We could have used your help with the harvest this year.” The man, not looking up as he filled his cart with bread and preserves muttered, “I have been ill,” and without another word, turned and headed back to his house on the hill.

As the old man recalled the events that had led to the man no longer sharing the work of the people, he felt a great sadness, for he knew the man had no illness or injury that should prevent him from working. No, his sickness was not one of the body, it was one of the mind. Thinking it would be better not to attempt to explain this to the child who had asked him the question, he smiled and said “He is a busy man. He does not have time to help.” The child, satisfied with the answer, ran after the carts laden with fruit, and no more was said of the matter.

Time passed, and each year the people would come together and harvest the fruit from the trees and the crops from the soil, and each year the man would stay shut away in his house on the hill. The people always had enough to eat, although recently, the harvests had been poor, and the food had been rationed to make sure there was enough to last for the month ahead.

One year, the harvest was exceptionally poor. The elders knew there would not be enough to last them all till the following year. Even the children looked concerned about the lack of colour in the branches of the trees. There was a lack of the usual festive joy that usually surrounded the harvest, and amongst the older and more experienced men and women, there was a very real worry and concern about the coming winter. What could they do?

As they turned back towards the village with their carts half filled, they were surprised to see a man standing in the centre of the path. No one knew who the man was or where he had come from. They knew not of any other people living in the garden, yet the man greeted them like old friends. “I see you have had a poor harvest this year” he said, “but you needn’t worry, for at my house I have enough chairs at my table for all of you, and enough food for you all to eat.”

The people felt relief. Although they had worked their hardest to provide enough food for everyone, the sun and the soil and the rain and the rivers couldn’t meet their expectations. Then, out of nowhere comes this man offering his hospitality. His timing could not have been better. It seemed they would not go hungry after all.

“I have only two horses”, said the man “The journey is short, but I must show you the way. I will send for you all one by one, and in time, all of you shall feast at my table.” With that, he turned and headed away into the distance. The people continued on their way, and went about life like normal, but inside each one of them was the knowledge that they would soon be dining with the man they had met that day.

Over the winter, one by one, the people rode away on the horses that the man had sent for them. Eventually, there was only one person left. It was the child who had spoken to the old man on the day of the harvest. As the last of the food ran out, the man arrived with the horses. He lifted the boy onto the saddle. “There is one more seat left at the table,” he said “We have been waiting for you to arrive before we commence our banquet. We had better make haste.” And with that they rode into distance. As the horse cantered through the trees and rivers, the boy turned around and saw the old man peering through the window of the house on the hill. ‘He must be too busy to come to the banquet.’ he thought to himself.

Winter became spring; spring became summer, which slowly gave way to the autumn. The trees of the garden were rich with colour and the smell of fruit. The branches broke under the weight of the fruit, which slowly rotted; the crops wilted in the fields. The sound of horses and laughter - by now just a distant echo lost in the depths of the rivers and the leaves of the trees – did not wake the man from his slumber.
jack of spades Aug 2017
it’s easier writing poetry in second person because then you don’t have to face your own experiences and emotions, but this forest has been getting so thick lately that i can’t see the sky between the trees. (i can’t see the forest for the trees.) i’ve been having trouble trying to sleep because the wind keeps whispering through the leaves, the pine trees keep dropping needles, and the redwoods are suffocating, and the oak trees are dripping with sticky syrup trying to trap me, trying to encase me, trying to enrapture me. spring is so suffocating - everything won’t stop growing - but at the same time winter is so scary - i’m scared of everything dying - i don’t want everything to die - i don’t like looking at the leaves as they’re falling - i don’t want to see them change but i’m horrified of them staying the same - why are the trees moving closer to me? why is there nothing but trees surrounding me i don’t like facing the fact that all these trees are growing in my own soil in my own brain and taking up all of the space I WAS TRYING TO MAKE SPACE FOR STARS AND PLANETS BUT I CAN’T SEE THE SKY ANYMORE

i can’t see the moon anymore.

and in the shadows bigfoot has been creeping through my trees like they’re his own like maybe i’m the cryptid despite the fact that this is my brain this is my forest THESE ARE MY TREES but i’m the thing that nobody sees i’m the blurry photographs and disappearing acts and the curiosity, the mystery. how do you know that you exist how do you know that other people exist how do you know that the universe really exists how do i know that these trees are trying to **** me WHY ARE THE TREES ALWAYS TRYING TO **** ME i’d like to climb them without falling and skinning my knees i’d like to run through them but i get tripped up by the poison ivy tumbling into the soft dirt until it’s trying to swallow me (nothing exists in the ground past six feet) and there’s no way out no way out NO WAY OUT but i can hear the creek rushing and tumbling over rocks and through roots and i know if i can find the creek then i can get away from the trees and the clouds overhead threaten rain but the drops can’t touch me until i leave the trees and the trees keep moving and changing until i can’t see the forest anymore, just the pieces and leaves and i want to leave i want to leave i want to leave because everything is green and i love the color green so why is this so nauseating why am i hyperventilating why can’t i get out of my own head please let me out of my own head i don’t want to live in the forest anymore i don’t want to be trapped in the forest anymore i don’t want a treehouse anymore i don’t want to write poetry in first person anymore i’d like to leave please I’D LIKE TO LEAVE
THE HOUSE OF DUST
A Symphony

BY
CONRAD AIKEN

To Jessie

NOTE

. . . Parts of this poem have been printed in "The North American
Review, Others, Poetry, Youth, Coterie, The Yale Review". . . . I am
indebted to Lafcadio Hearn for the episode called "The Screen Maiden"
in Part II.


     This text comes from the source available at
     Project Gutenberg, originally prepared by Judy Boss
     of Omaha, NE.
    
THE HOUSE OF DUST


PART I.


I.

The sun goes down in a cold pale flare of light.
The trees grow dark: the shadows lean to the east:
And lights wink out through the windows, one by one.
A clamor of frosty sirens mourns at the night.
Pale slate-grey clouds whirl up from the sunken sun.

And the wandering one, the inquisitive dreamer of dreams,
The eternal asker of answers, stands in the street,
And lifts his palms for the first cold ghost of rain.
The purple lights leap down the hill before him.
The gorgeous night has begun again.

'I will ask them all, I will ask them all their dreams,
I will hold my light above them and seek their faces.
I will hear them whisper, invisible in their veins . . .'
The eternal asker of answers becomes as the darkness,
Or as a wind blown over a myriad forest,
Or as the numberless voices of long-drawn rains.

We hear him and take him among us, like a wind of music,
Like the ghost of a music we have somewhere heard;
We crowd through the streets in a dazzle of pallid lamplight,
We pour in a sinister wave, ascend a stair,
With laughter and cry, and word upon murmured word;
We flow, we descend, we turn . . . and the eternal dreamer
Moves among us like light, like evening air . . .

Good-night!  Good-night!  Good-night!  We go our ways,
The rain runs over the pavement before our feet,
The cold rain falls, the rain sings.
We walk, we run, we ride.  We turn our faces
To what the eternal evening brings.

Our hands are hot and raw with the stones we have laid,
We have built a tower of stone high into the sky,
We have built a city of towers.

Our hands are light, they are singing with emptiness.
Our souls are light; they have shaken a burden of hours . . .
What did we build it for?  Was it all a dream? . . .
Ghostly above us in lamplight the towers gleam . . .
And after a while they will fall to dust and rain;
Or else we will tear them down with impatient hands;
And hew rock out of the earth, and build them again.


II.

One, from his high bright window in a tower,
Leans out, as evening falls,
And sees the advancing curtain of the shower
Splashing its silver on roofs and walls:
Sees how, swift as a shadow, it crosses the city,
And murmurs beyond far walls to the sea,
Leaving a glimmer of water in the dark canyons,
And silver falling from eave and tree.

One, from his high bright window, looking down,
Peers like a dreamer over the rain-bright town,
And thinks its towers are like a dream.
The western windows flame in the sun's last flare,
Pale roofs begin to gleam.

Looking down from a window high in a wall
He sees us all;
Lifting our pallid faces towards the rain,
Searching the sky, and going our ways again,
Standing in doorways, waiting under the trees . . .
There, in the high bright window he dreams, and sees
What we are blind to,-we who mass and crowd
From wall to wall in the darkening of a cloud.

The gulls drift slowly above the city of towers,
Over the roofs to the darkening sea they fly;
Night falls swiftly on an evening of rain.
The yellow lamps wink one by one again.
The towers reach higher and blacker against the sky.


III.

One, where the pale sea foamed at the yellow sand,
With wave upon slowly shattering wave,
Turned to the city of towers as evening fell;
And slowly walked by the darkening road toward it;
And saw how the towers darkened against the sky;
And across the distance heard the toll of a bell.

Along the darkening road he hurried alone,
With his eyes cast down,
And thought how the streets were hoarse with a tide of people,
With clamor of voices, and numberless faces . . .
And it seemed to him, of a sudden, that he would drown
Here in the quiet of evening air,
These empty and voiceless places . . .
And he hurried towards the city, to enter there.

Along the darkening road, between tall trees
That made a sinister whisper, loudly he walked.
Behind him, sea-gulls dipped over long grey seas.
Before him, numberless lovers smiled and talked.
And death was observed with sudden cries,
And birth with laughter and pain.
And the trees grew taller and blacker against the skies
And night came down again.


IV.

Up high black walls, up sombre terraces,
Clinging like luminous birds to the sides of cliffs,
The yellow lights went climbing towards the sky.
From high black walls, gleaming vaguely with rain,
Each yellow light looked down like a golden eye.

They trembled from coign to coign, and tower to tower,
Along high terraces quicker than dream they flew.
And some of them steadily glowed, and some soon vanished,
And some strange shadows threw.

And behind them all the ghosts of thoughts went moving,
Restlessly moving in each lamplit room,
From chair to mirror, from mirror to fire;
From some, the light was scarcely more than a gloom:
From some, a dazzling desire.

And there was one, beneath black eaves, who thought,
Combing with lifted arms her golden hair,
Of the lover who hurried towards her through the night;
And there was one who dreamed of a sudden death
As she blew out her light.

And there was one who turned from clamoring streets,
And walked in lamplit gardens among black trees,
And looked at the windy sky,
And thought with terror how stones and roots would freeze
And birds in the dead boughs cry . . .

And she hurried back, as snow fell, mixed with rain,
To mingle among the crowds again,
To jostle beneath blue lamps along the street;
And lost herself in the warm bright coiling dream,
With a sound of murmuring voices and shuffling feet.

And one, from his high bright window looking down
On luminous chasms that cleft the basalt town,
Hearing a sea-like murmur rise,
Desired to leave his dream, descend from the tower,
And drown in waves of shouts and laughter and cries.


V.

The snow floats down upon us, mingled with rain . . .
It eddies around pale lilac lamps, and falls
Down golden-windowed walls.
We were all born of flesh, in a flare of pain,
We do not remember the red roots whence we rose,
But we know that we rose and walked, that after a while
We shall lie down again.

The snow floats down upon us, we turn, we turn,
Through gorges filled with light we sound and flow . . .
One is struck down and hurt, we crowd about him,
We bear him away, gaze after his listless body;
But whether he lives or dies we do not know.

One of us sings in the street, and we listen to him;
The words ring over us like vague bells of sorrow.
He sings of a house he lived in long ago.
It is strange; this house of dust was the house I lived in;
The house you lived in, the house that all of us know.
And coiling slowly about him, and laughing at him,
And throwing him pennies, we bear away
A mournful echo of other times and places,
And follow a dream . . . a dream that will not stay.

Down long broad flights of lamplit stairs we flow;
Noisy, in scattered waves, crowding and shouting;
In broken slow cascades.
The gardens extend before us . . .  We spread out swiftly;
Trees are above us, and darkness.  The canyon fades . . .

And we recall, with a gleaming stab of sadness,
Vaguely and incoherently, some dream
Of a world we came from, a world of sun-blue hills . . .
A black wood whispers around us, green eyes gleam;
Someone cries in the forest, and someone kills.

We flow to the east, to the white-lined shivering sea;
We reach to the west, where the whirling sun went down;
We close our eyes to music in bright cafees.
We diverge from clamorous streets to streets that are silent.
We loaf where the wind-spilled fountain plays.

And, growing tired, we turn aside at last,
Remember our secret selves, seek out our towers,
Lay weary hands on the banisters, and climb;
Climbing, each, to his little four-square dream
Of love or lust or beauty or death or crime.


VI.

Over the darkened city, the city of towers,
The city of a thousand gates,
Over the gleaming terraced roofs, the huddled towers,
Over a somnolent whisper of loves and hates,
The slow wind flows, drearily streams and falls,
With a mournful sound down rain-dark walls.
On one side purples the lustrous dusk of the sea,
And dreams in white at the city's feet;
On one side sleep the plains, with heaped-up hills.
Oaks and beeches whisper in rings about it.
Above the trees are towers where dread bells beat.

The fisherman draws his streaming net from the sea
And sails toward the far-off city, that seems
Like one vague tower.
The dark bow plunges to foam on blue-black waves,
And shrill rain seethes like a ghostly music about him
In a quiet shower.

Rain with a shrill sings on the lapsing waves;
Rain thrills over the roofs again;
Like a shadow of shifting silver it crosses the city;
The lamps in the streets are streamed with rain;
And sparrows complain beneath deep eaves,
And among whirled leaves
The sea-gulls, blowing from tower to lower tower,
From wall to remoter wall,
Skim with the driven rain to the rising sea-sound
And close grey wings and fall . . .

. . . Hearing great rain above me, I now remember
A girl who stood by the door and shut her eyes:
Her pale cheeks glistened with rain, she stood and shivered.
Into a forest of silver she vanished slowly . . .
Voices about me rise . . .

Voices clear and silvery, voices of raindrops,-
'We struck with silver claws, we struck her down.
We are the ghosts of the singing furies . . . '
A chorus of elfin voices blowing about me
Weaves to a babel of sound.  Each cries a secret.
I run among them, reach out vain hands, and drown.

'I am the one who stood beside you and smiled,
Thinking your face so strangely young . . . '
'I am the one who loved you but did not dare.'
'I am the one you followed through crowded streets,
The one who escaped you, the one with red-gleamed hair.'

'I am the one you saw to-day, who fell
Senseless before you, hearing a certain bell:
A bell that broke great memories in my brain.'
'I am the one who passed unnoticed before you,
Invisible, in a cloud of secret pain.'

'I am the one who suddenly cried, beholding
The face of a certain man on the dazzling screen.
They wrote me that he was dead.  It was long ago.
I walked in the streets for a long while, hearing nothing,
And returned to see it again.  And it was so.'


Weave, weave, weave, you streaks of rain!
I am dissolved and woven again . . .
Thousands of faces rise and vanish before me.
Thousands of voices weave in the rain.

'I am the one who rode beside you, blinking
At a dazzle of golden lights.
Tempests of music swept me: I was thinking
Of the gorgeous promise of certain nights:
Of the woman who suddenly smiled at me this day,
Smiled in a certain delicious sidelong way,
And turned, as she reached the door,
To smile once more . . .
Her hands are whiter than snow on midnight water.
Her throat is golden and full of golden laughter,
Her eyes are strange as the stealth of the moon
On a night in June . . .
She runs among whistling leaves; I hurry after;
She dances in dreams over white-waved water;
Her body is white and fragrant and cool,
Magnolia petals that float on a white-starred pool . . .
I have dreamed of her, dreaming for many nights
Of a broken music and golden lights,
Of broken webs of silver, heavily falling
Between my hands and their white desire:
And dark-leaved boughs, edged with a golden radiance,
Dipping to screen a fire . . .
I dream that I walk with her beneath high trees,
But as I lean to kiss her face,
She is blown aloft on wind, I catch at leaves,
And run in a moonless place;
And I hear a crashing of terrible rocks flung down,
And shattering trees and cracking walls,
And a net of intense white flame roars over the town,
And someone cries; and darkness falls . . .
But now she has leaned and smiled at me,
My veins are afire with music,
Her eyes have kissed me, my body is turned to light;
I shall dream to her secret heart tonight . . . '

He rises and moves away, he says no word,
He folds his evening paper and turns away;
I rush through the dark with rows of lamplit faces;
Fire bells peal, and some of us turn to listen,
And some sit motionless in their accustomed places.

Cold rain lashes the car-roof, scurries in gusts,
Streams down the windows in waves and ripples of lustre;
The lamps in the streets are distorted and strange.
Someone takes his watch from his pocket and yawns.
One peers out in the night for the place to change.

Rain . . . rain . . . rain . . . we are buried in rain,
It will rain forever, the swift wheels hiss through water,
Pale sheets of water gleam in the windy street.
The pealing of bells is lost in a drive of rain-drops.
Remote and hurried the great bells beat.

'I am the one whom life so shrewdly betrayed,
Misfortune dogs me, it always hunted me down.
And to-day the woman I love lies dead.
I gave her roses, a ring with opals;
These hands have touched her head.

'I bound her to me in all soft ways,
I bound her to me in a net of days,
Yet now she has gone in silence and said no word.
How can we face these dazzling things, I ask you?
There is no use: we cry: and are not heard.

'They cover a body with roses . . . I shall not see it . . .
Must one return to the lifeless walls of a city
Whose soul is charred by fire? . . . '
His eyes are closed, his lips press tightly together.
Wheels hiss beneath us.  He yields us our desire.

'No, do not stare so-he is weak with grief,
He cannot face you, he turns his eyes aside;
He is confused with pain.
I suffered this.  I know.  It was long ago . . .
He closes his eyes and drowns in death again.'

The wind hurls blows at the rain-starred glistening windows,
The wind shrills down from the half-seen walls.
We flow on the mournful wind in a dream of dying;
And at last a silence falls.


VII.

Midnight; bells toll, and along the cloud-high towers
The golden lights go out . . .
The yellow windows darken, the shades are drawn,
In thousands of rooms we sleep, we await the dawn,
We lie face down, we dream,
We cry aloud with terror, half rise, or seem
To stare at the ceiling or walls . . .
Midnight . . . the last of shattering bell-notes falls.
A rush of silence whirls over the cloud-high towers,
A vortex of soundless hours.

'The bells have just struck twelve: I should be sleeping.
But I cannot delay any longer to write and tell you.
The woman is dead.
She died-you know the way.  Just as we planned.
Smiling, with open sunlit eyes.
Smiling upon the outstretched fatal hand . . .'

He folds his letter, steps softly down the stairs.
The doors are closed and silent.  A gas-jet flares.
His shadow disturbs a shadow of balustrades.
The door swings shut behind.  Night roars above him.
Into the night he fades.

Wind; wind; wind; carving the walls;
Blowing the water that gleams in the street;
Blowing the rain, the sleet.
In the dark alley, an old tree cracks and falls,
Oak-boughs moan in the haunted air;
Lamps blow down with a crash and ****** of glass . . .
Darkness whistles . . . Wild hours pass . . .

And those whom sleep eludes lie wide-eyed, hearing
Above their heads a goblin night go by;
Children are waked, and cry,
The young girl hears the roar in her sleep, and dreams
That her lover is caught in a burning tower,
She clutches the pillow, she gasps for breath, she screams . . .
And then by degrees her breath grows quiet and slow,
She dreams of an evening, long ago:
Of colored lanterns balancing under trees,
Some of them softly catching afire;
And beneath the lanterns a motionless face she sees,
Golden with lamplight, smiling, serene . . .
The leaves are a pale and glittering green,
The sound of horns blows over the trampled grass,
Shadows of dancers pass . . .
The face smiles closer to hers, she tries to lean
Backward, away, the eyes burn close and strange,
The face is beginning to change,-
It is her lover, she no longer desires to resist,
She is held and kissed.
She closes her eyes, and melts in a seethe of
Megan Zhao Dec 2015
trees
are so certain
of what they are from
the moment
they give off shoots
that they carry out
their missions without
ever a hesitation
or flinch
steadfast
trustworthy and
having no pretense
trees excel as an individual
or as a forest
they are the first comers
of planet earth
even before dinosaurs
were roaming around
and the most loyal friends
of human races—
trees to build houses
trees to grow food
trees to provide oxygen
trees to prevent erosion
and protect the environment
growing in the greatest
abundance with raw
intelligence
trees witness
trees memorize—
never forget the passage of time
but keep their silence
like a true matriarch
for thousands of years
trees have spurred  
the human imaginations
in mythology, art
or poetry
trees are loving creatures
they compensate our
shortcomings
for when they fall in love
they love deeply—
they wait
Hopi Butler Nov 2011
Large, billowing willow trees surround a small meadow, leaving no way to get out. Their branches hang to the ground, the wind whipping them lazily. The green sprouts and leaves on the tips of the branches drag on the ground softly. The trees are so packed together that no sight can be seen through the trees, no escape at all. No one can enter, and no one can leave. The bark is brown, deep crevices made in its skin. The limbs skim over the ground, swaying ever so slightly. On the limbs hang nearly invisible webs spun by clever weaving spiders. The bright green grass wraps around the bark, swaying in the lazy meadow. In the middle of the meadow floats a high overhanging cliff, no part of it truly connected to the ground. Vines cover a structure, obstructing what the structure truly is. Bright pink and blue flowers decorate the vines, adding a serene feeling to the floating island and a floating smell of nectar is carried by the wind. A waterfall flows through the middle of the gates, the cool pure water falling into the pond directly below the waterfall. The pond is covered with ripples, although nothing seems to be obstructing the surface of the pond for the moment. Below the surface flows gentle weaves of seaweed, rainbow colored fish swimming between the strands. They would jump up, spreading small rainbows on dew drops into the sweet tasting air. The cloudless sky seems to sparkle in the setting sunlight, spreading pink and red strips across the sky. No birds fly in the small expanse of visible sky, yet a small nameless tune is heard, the wind carrying it all around the trees. The tune is light, and filled with what can only be known as joy.

The tune begins to change, losing the quality of light and joy and changing into a tune of sereneness and calm. The wind carries it through the meadow, pushing it against the dark trees. The leaves begin to fall, staining the ground at their feet different shades of red, gold and orange. The lost foliage does nothing to deter the packed trees from blocking any view outside of the circular meadow, leaving it in seclusion. The grass is turning into bright gold strands, folding unto itself as it sways in the gentle wind. The wind tastes like apples, although there is no fruit on the trees. The wind continues to flow, picking up the leaves and scattering them away from the base of the trees. The pond is covered with a few stray leaves, the ripples from said leaves turning and spinning as if they were dihedrals spun by small children. A harvest moon sends out a bright light, casting a rainbow onto the waterfall. The forever flowing waterfall continues to cascade down from the floating island as the rainbow continues to color the water. The rainbow fish’s scales have turned deep colors of red and gold, and they continue to break the surface of the pond, jumping to and fro. The vines still cover the cold, metal gate, blood red flowers covering the island in stunning beauty. The meadow seems to secrete a pleasant smell, sending waves of comfort and  tranquility to every blade of grass and falling leaf.

The grass disappears from view as the ground is covered in white, cold powder. The branches on the trees dip from the weight of snow and ice, their limbs brushing the ground in small sweeps. The crisp, biting wind does nothing to help the swaying, and instead blows across the ground, sending small flurries of the snow upwards bound. It circles around the frozen waterfall, every drop of purified water hanging in place, frozen in time. The island itself is covered in snow and white flowers, their color unadulterated. The vines seem to be dead, no longer living as they were before. The secret of the gates seem to be revealed, although barely. The gate remains locked, but the vines are cleared enough that the fenced in area can be seen. The area in the middle of the island is glowing, brightly colored with the beginning of the waterfall, the rainbow fish swimming in the small pool of water. The trees that are in the fenced in area are bright with life and colors, shining as if they were in the midst of spring and not winter. Petals from the flowers that decorate the vines and trees gently fall, landing on the icy surface of the pond. Silence invades the wintry meadow, crushing upon the meadow with great strength as the wind howls silently. The sky is pure black, the only light seen is the glistening stars, all shining as brightly as the northern star. Bright strips of rainbow appear in the sky, the aurora waving like the waves of the ocean themselves. Softly, stealthily a small tune is heard to only those truly lost in the meadow’s power. The tune is filled with what words can only describe as confusion as joy and peace meld with depression and war, hatred and love weaving in and out of the tune like a needle and thread. The tune is suddenly broken, and the meadow disappears, leaving nothing behind but darkness and emptiness until the cycle repeats another day.
Eric Noble Oct 2017
The tallest tree stands guard in the park
He keeps out the wind with the thickest of bark
And all of the trees for miles can view
His thick curving branches holding so true

But in this park, alone is he not
For he must have company contained in his lot
And all of the trees for miles besiege
A chance to stand where he scatters his leaves

So one by one he picks his crew
An elm, an oak, a pine, and a yew
And all of the trees for miles brew spite
That they were chose not to be at his right

And slow but sure, his trees conceive
And then of their duty, they are bereaved
And all of the trees for miles make haste
To see the new saplings that are now placed

They know for sure that some can not strive
For he consumes the most sun to survive
And all of the trees for miles conspire
To rule his park when he retires

And the smallest of saps looks on in rapture
And knows at once, his park it must capture
And all of the trees for miles look on in gall
For this little sapling is the smallest of all

For years he awakens and each day he stretches
But in pain of this growth, the poor sap retches
And all of the trees for miles must grin
The sap keeps fighting, though told he can't win

The sap matures, and ends an adult
Taller than all, he begins to gloat
And all of the trees for miles are shocked
The sap beat them all, his potential unlocked

Many moons pass and all can see
The impending death of the old tallest tree
And all the the trees for miles don't know
What they will do when his wizened self goes

And when he expires, the sap is the king
And his cries of victory echo and ring
And all of the trees for miles can view
His thick curving branches holding so true

But the sap can not hear all this admiration
And endlessly strains in exasperation
And all of the trees for miles can see
He's so much worse off, being this tree

But up on his pedestal, his glory can blind
And he can't see know his particular bind
And all of the trees for miles just wait
For the last of his life to dissipate
Frank DeRose Oct 2015
Walk beneath the trees my child,
Where pine needles lie underfoot.
Walk beneath the trees my child,
And seek the softer ground.

Walk beneath the trees my child,
And tread lightly the worn path.
Walk beneath the trees my child,
And listen to the earth.
Hear the branches snap,
The birds chirp,
And your own breath--
Loud.

Walk beneath the trees my child,
And learn the secrets of the earth;
Hear her tell life's vibrant tales,
In vivid shades of life.

Walk beneath the trees my child,
And quiet thine mind.
"Loud thoughts need not always be thought,"
Whisper the willows.
Listen well (my child).

Walk beneath the trees my child,
Below their lofty boughs.
Seek the shaded shelter deep and sound,
Find the peace within.

Walk beneath the trees my child,
And become one with the earth.
Walk beneath the trees my child,
And learn your inner worth.
Feedback is appreciated
Way down south
beneath the line
where stories muddle up
with time
there are some trees

leaves of green
and flowers white
decorate the
southern night
from these trees

branches marked
but not by time
burned out by
jute and knotted twine
from these trees

close your eyes
and think when
these trees
were weapons of the men
these trees

nothing grows
out from the root
of these trees
no strange fruit
on these trees

once the fruit
that hung up here
filled many folks
with mortal fear
of these trees

not apples, pears
grow here today
and no strange fruit
of Billie Holliday...
grow on these trees
10 trees in the forest.
The home of my tribe
for thousands of years.
9 trees in the forest.
The thirst of riches
can dry up an ocean.
8 trees in the forest.
They assured us
that they will not cut more trees,
in the name of respect.
7 trees in the forest.
They told us
that they still have to cut
a few more trees,
in the name of progress.
6 trees in the forest.
The world is a peacock
that boasts of its ideals,
in the name of rights
but its tail soon closes again.
5 trees in the forest.
We don't find food anymore
and our children cry,
in the name of hunger.
4 trees in the forest.
Someone writes about us,
in the name of information.
3 trees in the forest.
Someone pretends to help us,
in the name of falsity.
2 trees in the forest.
We are dying
and everyone notices.
One tree in the forest.
We are dead
and no one notices.
There are no more trees in the forest.
They will write books
on the extinct tribe
and they will pass on
to the next forest.

21.8.'15
James Mosston Jan 2013
Trees Trees Trees all around.
Trees Trees Trees as they stumble to the ground.
Trees Trees Trees do they make a sound????
AaliyahGisele Feb 2017
I see life when I look through these trees

I see love when I look through these trees,

I see happiness when I look through these trees,

I see god when I look through the trees,

i see a face when I look through these trees,

i see your face when I look through these trees,

i see a future when I look through these trees,

I see a better life when I look through these trees,

i see my future through these trees,

i see what I want in life through these trees.
Raj Arumugam May 2013
trees, trees and plants
we see them with trunks round
Love them, laugh with them
cos you may not see them
all years, always  a -round

Trees, trees
they have no fingers
Oh, but they’ve got many rings;
and they still get on the internet
by logging in

Tulips grow on your face
and if you plant kisses
you get another two lips;
the cucumber goes mad
cos it’s in a pickle;
the mushroom is always invited to parties
cos he’s a fungi

and the dog loves the tree
cos they both have bark;
while the frog’s favorite flower
is the croak-us;
the elephant, on the other hand,
I mean on the other trunk,
loves squash;
and while the fruit
comes from a fruit tree
the chicken comes
from a poul-tree

trees, trees and plants
we see them with trunks round
Love them, laugh with them
cos you may not see them
all years, always  a-round

the nut sneezes: *"Cashew!"

And the lemon is sick
and the kind neighbors
give it lemon-aid;
the tomato turns red
cos it sees the salad dressing;
and baby corn says to mama corn:
"Where’s pop?"

and you humans
if you reach out with your hands
you can fit a palm tree in;
and knock! knock!
who’s there?
"Leaf – yeah, just leaf me alone;
enough of your silly jokes"


Trees, trees and plants
we see them with trunks round
Love them, laugh with them
Cos you may not see them
All years, always  a -round
(poem based on a collection of online riddles on plants and trees, and such)
Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

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

The city had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the ***** behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
I’d hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees except
As others hold theirs or refuse for them,
Beyond the time of profitable growth,
The trial by market everything must come to.
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.
Then whether from mistaken courtesy
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether
From hope of hearing good of what was mine,
I said, “There aren’t enough to be worth while.”
“I could soon tell how many they would cut,
You let me look them over.”

“You could look.
But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.”
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few
Quite solitary and having equal boughs
All round and round. The latter he nodded “Yes” to,
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,
With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.”
I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,
And came down on the north.
He said, “A thousand.”

“A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?”

He felt some need of softening that to me:
“A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.”

Then I was certain I had never meant
To let him have them. Never show surprise!
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents
(For that was all they figured out apiece),
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends
I should be writing to within the hour
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had!
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,
As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter.
I can’t help wishing I could send you one,
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.
Sanaysha Oct 2018
I speak for all seasons in reasons when I have meaning and my inspiration is the Lorax but he speaks for trees instead of season.

I speak for spring with cleaning for when cleaning is happening  around the trees and flowers are back to blooming under pile water sold as brick and so are the ***** in eggs making babies  and these babies come in season where they climb tress where happening spring speaks for itself sometimes.

Bringing in Rock and Roll band under trees where their touring leaves of tree instead of busses under the influence of that time with a "S" uneasy for spring but it's hotter so spring can't handle the fling of the air so it leaves the trees to do the magic . Because this is the time where kids are done being tired of hearing their teachers teach them geometry of trees and sorts. Everyone is having fun while the little girl they call "Summer" when her name is actually Sarah Lynn is waiting for all the other season to pass under a tree. She waits while the loitering teen smoke cigarettes and sing Summer songs while floating in a big bucket of big depressing tears while the elder use the tears to keep the trees going.

And at the verge of Summer the kids pack supplies and back to school for open eyes but all the boys are tall with voices of big manly opera singers and the girl now have hips and thigh and that bucket of tears is old and green. All of them are suprised by their assests but I'm hiding mine in the back of the classroom, in a cubicle with close blines because it gets colder this time of year. And every once and a while during cruel geometry I peek out the window and imagine geometric shapes that aren't there with the leaves and trees on the ground. And when more fall they create more shapes.

And as it cools down the bucket is gone and the piles are back bigger and healthier where their even in the trees making me hide my assests more and more and more. Now we just walk about listening to little "Sarah Summer Lynn" complain about the season not passing fast enough until the day of Christ when she's quiet about em because she took busy helping The Christ unwrap his papers off his desk of forgetfulness and on to happiness while I'm still outside missing out on that time hiding my *** that sit under pants with a coat and a blanket because I'm cold. And while I do I sit under trees picking under the piles for dead leaves.

Every season they call out my name
" HER, you there?"

And when they find me , wherever I be I just say
"I'm speaking for seasons because the Lorax is my inspiration but since he speaks for the trees I'll speak for the seasons around them while hiding my assests where their unfounded but when their found I help the old Lorax speak for the trees and I'm no expecting to be rewarded."

"I am HER and I speak for All seasons."
Marie-Chantal Feb 2015
That beautiful sir keeps watchful eye over the land. He carries an armful of lilacs, he says nothing but walks, his black plumage glinting in the near-spring light. He swings something along his side. Too afraid to ask. Why does he hide it? That's because the trees have eyes.

Roasting, dripping pig flesh and sweet dough, cooking ever so slow. A warning whisper is sent through the woods. How do trees know? They have eyes.

One lilac drops on the floor above the decaying bird carcasses. There are bird carcasses. Is this one of the beautiful sir's kind? That cannot be. But it is because the trees have eyes. They don't say much, trees, but they send a whisper up the woods and warn the fleshed pork eaters of coming lights. Snap! Fire out. Don't make a sound. Can they hear?

And suddenly the trees whisper as loudly as trees can:

"RUN"
                                    
For the beautiful sir is hardly man. There swinging at his side is nothing but a human head hanging on some golden thread. There is a stench of death that could never be described as anything other than fear. The beautiful sir with his black plumage is death.

His head jerks and he looks the fleshéd in the eye
they know they are the next to die.

But, how did the trees know?

*"That's because the trees have eyes."
Have you ever noticed that trees have eyes?
Erick Pratt Jul 2014
Earth.
A small creek trickles slowly by.
Sunlight barely breaks through the leaves of the trees.
The trees.
A little bird flies by, seeking food.
It flies on, then disappears into the trees.
The trees.
And leaves.
A deer quietly moves through the trees, softly rustling the leaves.
And a perched bird in the tree whistles with the breeze.
A fish splashes in the cool water of the creek.
The creek trickles quietly through the trees, through the earth.
A rabbit hops along the ground, softly pounding the earth with each bound.
The breeze blows though the trees, rustling the leaves.
The trees.
Brad Lambert Apr 2014
All's wet in the woods.
Big bets been placed and diced in them forests.
Austrian pines are never to be trusted–
I'm never to be trusted so much, too.
So much for them healthy spines!
That's a question mark if your frame ends a sentence.
So much for good times and good measure!
They plain-prohibited plants in the soil –
That there's my soil and we all share the sun.
Listen to that, son.
Shaking overhead.
Summer storms rumble loud.
All's loud overhead.
Calling it out, the thunder warns me so:

Wind in the trees!
Wind in the trees!
Rain on the grass and
wind in the trees!

Blades of grass where
wind only breathes.
Patterin' on grass–
Whooshin' through trees!


And what was first to fillin' the woods?
It was feet on the soil and toes in the sand.
Plants in the soil and bare feet in the sand.
Skinny boys have been dipped all skinny in streams.
Sun's been refractin' for years in them streams.
The night was borne of embers in winds and
blankets made out as whole as that sky.
Mountains breathing out across their own flat feet with
whispers in wind's breath humming through the blue mountain's teeth:

Drums in the woods
be drum-circlin' them flames.
Roots in the woods
done wrap-choked my heartstrings.

Beats in the wild
be drum-beatin' us tame.
Whips in the wild
done whip-shaped his heartstrings.


Never had I heard a call like that.
Howling and hopeful, hoping to be whole.
That mountain's been chipped all dusty in streams.
Them streams been runnin' across them whole-skins.
Howl and be happy.
Paint night-skies on his leg.
Brush them tendrils from them eyes,
howlin' and bein' happy.
I hear the wind and I wonder if cedar pines are to be trusted.
I feel the soil, chilled and wet beneath the grass.
The storm has passed overhead.
Smellin' green grass and mild mosses.
I'm seein' stars overhead.
Fingers runnin' across them foggy windows.
I think of the wind and the rain–
We will see.

*Wind in the trees!
Wind in the trees!
Rain on the grass and
wind in the trees!

Sorrow blows where
no man can breathe.
Rain patters on grass–
Wind in the trees.
Do you hear the music?
Does it give you ease?
Hold my hands and lean far back
Look up into the trees.
The answers there
That no one sees,
Imaginings to anyone who believes.
That magic
Can’t be deceived,
Open arms to be relieved.
Move with me
And be believed,
Cherished, loved
And well received.
Just dancing with the trees.

Sunlight flickering through a canopy of incandescent leaves
A gentle cool wind blowing to a background of confident blue.
All around me are the dancing trees.
Rejoicing it seems in their bright prancing hues.
Oak, hemlock, cottonwood, spruce and pine
All swaying together in perfect time.
I walk the path in awe of it all
Listening to the spreading news.
The earth it seems
Has reached the dawning of a new day
Reproducing itself along the way.
I wonder if that’s really true
A year – can it be just a day?
If it is then I’m a part and so are you.
As we pass through this earthly delight
Another day of romance is on the way.
All the trees are out dancing tonight
Having put on their Sunday best.
Tonight they too can find this life's zest.

(Now move your body with the rhythm of the wind blown trees)

Let’s dance with them just for a little while.
Listen to the music of the air.
You move right – I’ll follow with a smile.
Then move left – the movement in your hair.
Living life with but one care
Taking this time to be aware.
Open your heart – no fear to share
Should or shouldn’t we dare?
This wonderful evening we are there.
Move again, I’ll take your hand
To and fro we say – isn’t it grand?
Waltzing – can you feel the breeze
In with a troop of trees?
I bow straight to my knees,
You follow and begin to see
Life and love and harmony
Peace of mind be seized.
Now holding on tight – still on your knees
Still moving to and fro I ask you please
Do you hear the music – does it give you ease?
Hold my hands and lean far back
And look up into the trees.
The answers there that no one sees
Imaginings to anyone who believes
That magic can’t be deceived
Open arms to be relieved
Move with me and be believed,
Cherished, loved and well received

Just dancing with the trees.
If you can grasp the feelings expressed in this piece then you are destined to live a full and happy existence.
Kevin Eli Jan 2016
One early morning along the quiet forest floor, a little mushroom popped it's head out of the ground. Looking in wonder, he pushed passed the dead leaves and dirt to reach for sunlight below the canopy.

"STOP!" said the forest. "You have been unruly. We have seen you try to grow with discord and disregard, denying the order. And what are you, alien? Identify as plant or animal!"

The little mushroom responded, "But I only did as you did; made a home. Like the rooted trees pillar in our leafy halls, as the moss nestles among the rocks, or how the birds nest in their hollows, why am I so different? I am both you and me."

The forest inhabitants pondered. In this time the mushroom grew and died. It took too long for the trees and the birds and the moss to agree by the time their fellow forest friend had passed.

The trees, too slow to interrupt, cried out to all, "What have we done?!  we may not have thought him as beautiful as the rest of us, but the mushroom was a part of this forest!"

As a parting token, the little fungi grew a network of strands below the trees roots to support them all, feeding and protecting them even in death.

With it's dying breath, it dropped it's spores, to which would grow bountiful among the forest floor, among the trees and the rocks and moss. They had not known it, but the little mushroom was a part of a greater fungi, miles across. It had been there as long as the forest, keeping the trees company since time began, before humans, before us.

Only the trees had the knowledge to understand the little mushroom, but their voices were too quiet, too slow. So the trees let the mushrooms grow in their branches and on their logs to give them a home.
I'm surrounded by trees and empty fields
and the monotonous draw of everyday day life.
But the trees they are beautiful,
they'll shadow my fears without a shadow of doubt.
But only the trees.
The trees.
Man is too self-absorbed to be truly affectionate.
Man cannot help, with words.
My lovely trees.
They do not speak.
They do not move.
They stand a silent justification to mother earth and all she has done.
Ottar Apr 2013
I enjoy light as it streams
through the trees.
I stand when I can,  in the light
as it streams
through the trees.
Spider webs turn, jewel
like, high up in the branches
They have their own dance
to even the slightest breeze!

There is something about the warmth
in the light,
I stand in, as it streams
through the trees.
The boughs wave not to me,
like I would like to think,
but in praise to their Creator.
The wind is their conductor.

I am comforted in His Presence
by the warmth
in the light as it streams,
through the trees.
My hands come together,
open as my ladle, to hold all
the joy, the warmth I experience,
in that moment as it streams.
through the trees,

I find more than peace,
there is fresh life,
in His presence,
from the warmth,
of the light,
as it streams,
through the trees.

Dip your ladle into the
coolness of the shade,
from your place in the light.
There is fresh life
in the light,
as it streams,
through the trees.

Take and share, with others,
leave behind, what you don't need,
go on child...it is there,
through the trees.
redspace Jan 2014
Life!
It's beautiful.
We all stand like trees in nature.

Each one unique and of it's own color.
Some waning with the seasons in and out of golds and red,
others hanging onto that green all year round.
We've got the notches in our legs and arms and faces and torsos,
the years of experience we've grown up and out with.
We share this sadness around one another.
Some are very old and some are dead.
Some are thick and ornery and proud.
Some skinny, some sickly, some... so-so's.
But if all we see are trees, we're going to miss this.

Because rhyming is out of order,
just notes that belong on borders,
of pages I'll never send,
in books, made from paper, made from trees.. I'll never mend.

But life!
It's unusual.
These trees.
We grow and build and climb towards the sky.
And aren't we all working towards the same goal?
We get stronger, we root deeper, we stand up despite the elements,
and we live no matter what.
And we love... each other.
We share the same soil and the same birds and the same woods in the same place.
But some trees can't grow that high and see those sights.
Some don't like that song in the air that's swirling around.
We share the breeze, but we can still tune it out.
Some can't bear those broken branches and falling leaves and fading colors.
So we end up caught in the rain where we won't touch you,
or the fog where we can't see you,
or the winter where we can't hear you or feel you or want you...

But once the storm calms,
we're still right there next to one another.
Our leaves will remind us that we like to speak,
and we will.
We'll laugh and scream and play with fresh blooms,
and a higher reach,
and that sweet, sweet sway.

Because.. love.
It's got to be mutual.
We're all like trees, and I'd rather be in a forest with you,
than standing alone for display.
Trees don't stop growing.
Friends do not just go away.
trees
trees
trees
why don't we
plant more of these

below the many benefits
of trees shall be shown
and how wonderful it is
to see them fully grown

neath a goodly shading oak
we can shelter from the sun
whilst children run around it
having tons and tons of fun

the precipitation process
needs trees for dousing rain
were we to be without
them life wouldn't sustain

spreading tree roots keep
the soil's profile stable
by meshing together in
an excellent natural cable

trees
trees
trees
why don't we
plant more of these
Fletcher Oct 2013
Fishing the backwoods in autumn,
I approach the creek with silent conviction.
As the sun climbs above the trees dispersing dawn,
and the leaves fall from the rooted trees,
the wind approaches from the East
drawing hungry fish near.

The painted morning clouds above are near
enough to call my own in the midst of autumn.
They linger in from the East,
Void of all animate conviction;
Just as the trees
Are unaware of this autumn dawn.

And as another silent dawn
Lures me to the woods so near
The crowded branches of the trees
shake off their leaves for autumn.
I thread my line and tie my fly with conviction
As the clouds and wind roll in from the East.

I have family in the East,
though never have they seen my woods or dawn.
Unfolding my arms I cast along the Eastern wind with conviction,
humming as the fish draw near.
The once swollen creek runs calmly in the autumn,
beneath crowded, naked trees.

A whistled melody comes from the trees,
carried in from the East.
Maybe the wind combined with autumn
are offering a tune to this quiet dawn.
Or could it be another person coming near
hoping to also cast into this dawn with conviction?

I salvage my conviction,
as the stranger casts and hooks the looming trees.
Perhaps he has not fished a dawn with trees so near,
let alone with a gusty breeze gathering from the East.
I leave him to his tangled trees, he leaves me to my dawn.
Soon enough whatever leaves were left are gone, scattered from their limbs due to
yanking line and autumn.
peter oram Dec 2011
AMBIGRAM VIII

Recto:

Yesterday was Christmas, and the days
already start to grow a little longer.
In our hand, the new year‘s fledgling, stronger
though more fragile too in many ways

than this bedraggled, aging crow, its song a
a sad, repeated phrase among the blackened
trees along a river. So sit back and
raise your glasses to it, do the conga,

auld lang syne, then hit the sack. And black and
white explode, a throng of rainbows—gaze!
You‘ll see it, wakened in  the morning haze,
ascending as the tethering s?tring is slackened:

Verso:

Yesterday was Christmas, and
the days already start to grow
a little longer. In our hand,

the new year‘s fledgling, stronger  though
more fragile too in many ways
than this bedraggled, aging crow,

its song a sad, repeated phrase
among the blackened trees along a
river. So sit back and raise

your glasses to it, do the conga,
auld lang syne, then hit the sack. And
And black and white explode, a throng of

rainbows—gaze! You‘ll see it, wakened
in the morning haze, ascend-
ing as the tethering string is slackened.






















































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­
































































­
































































­
































































­























































AMBIGRAM
­
Recto:

Yesterday was Christmas, and the days
already start to grow a little longer.
In our hand, the new year‘s fledgling, stronger
though more fragile too in many ways

than this bedraggled, aging crow, its song a
a sad, repeated phrase among the blackened
trees along a river. So sit back and
raise your glasses to it, do the conga,

auld lang syne, then hit the sack. And black and
white explode, a throng of rainbows—gaze!
You‘ll see it, wakened in  the morning haze,
ascending as the tethering s?tring is slackened:

Verso:

Yesterday was Christmas, and
the days already start to grow
a little longer. In our hand,

the new year‘s fledgling, stronger  though
more fragile too in many ways
than this bedraggled, aging crow,

its song a sad, repeated phrase
among the blackened trees along a
river. So sit back and raise

your glasses to it, do the conga,
auld lang syne, then hit the sack. And
And black and white explode, a throng of

rainbows—gaze! You‘ll see it, wakened
in the morning haze, ascend-
ing as the tethering string is slackened.






















































­
































































­
































































­
































































­































































A­MBIGRAM

Recto:

Yesterday was Christmas, and the days
already start to grow a little longer.
In our hand, the new year‘s fledgling, stronger
though more fragile too in many ways

than this bedraggled, aging crow, its song a
a sad, repeated phrase among the blackened
trees along a river. So sit back and
raise your glasses to it, do the conga,

auld lang syne, then hit the sack. And black and
white explode, a throng of rainbows—gaze!
You‘ll see it, wakened in  the morning haze,
ascending as the tethering s?tring is slackened:

Verso:

Yesterday was Christmas, and
the days already start to grow
a little longer. In our hand,

the new year‘s fledgling, stronger  though
more fragile too in many ways
than this bedraggled, aging crow,

its song a sad, repeated phrase
among the blackened trees along a
river. So sit back and raise

your glasses to it, do the conga,
auld lang syne, then hit the sack. And
And black and white explode, a throng of

rainbows—gaze! You‘ll see it, wakened
in the morning haze, ascend-
ing as the tethering string is slackened.






















































­
































































­
































































­
































































­
































































­
































































­
































































­



























































AMBIG­RAM

Recto:

Yesterday was Christmas, and the days
already start to grow a little longer.
In our hand, the new year‘s fledgling, stronger
though more fragile too in many ways

than this bedraggled, aging crow, its song a
a sad, repeated phrase among the blackened
trees along a river. So sit back and
raise your glasses to it, do the conga,

auld lang syne, then hit the sack. And black and
white explode, a throng of rainbows—gaze!
You‘ll see it, wakened in  the morning haze,
ascending as the tethering s?tring is slackened:

Verso:

Yesterday was Christmas, and
the days already start to grow
a little longer. In our hand,

the new year‘s fledgling, stronger  though
more fragile too in many ways
than this bedraggled, aging crow,

its song a sad, repeated phrase
among the blackened trees along a
river. So sit back and raise

your glasses to it, do the conga,
auld lang syne, then hit the sack. And
And black and white explode, a throng of

rainbows—gaze! You‘ll see it, wakened
in the morning haze, ascend-
ing as the tethering string is slackened.
Taru M Dec 2012
we were raised on the shoulders of trees
to feel like giants
lounging on canopy hammocks
we thought ourselves masters

in kindergarden
we imprinted turkeys on trees
hands bloodied by paint
we learned to give thanks for mastery of others

in 1st grade
we tossed tree planes to the heavens
like bubbles
we learned that the sky too was our domain

in 2nd grade
the Apples dropped
but we still clung to trees
like a mother's teet

in 6th grade
we read trees for meaning
finding failure in ancestry
we chose to keep the wheel turning

in 8th grade
we scribed trees with manifestos
we kept the wheel turning

in 10th grade
we learned to speak tree
and called it poetry
we kept the wheel turning

in 12th grade
they gave us a tree as congratulations
but told us do not celebrate
there are more trees to earn

so we kept the wheel turning

in college
we bound tree families into books
and called it a dissertation
we became slave/ masters
the universe, our dominion
yet we were still rolling
calling triangles squares
and keeping the wheel turning
we were only chasing trees
costumed down
they called them degrees
and once we caught them
we swallowed them whole
and kept the wheel turning

after college
we kept chasing trees
the more zeros, the faster we ran
but they were hollow
branded with too many nothings

and this we did not realize
until we inhaled trees
lit them ablaze and listened to their smoke

consider this your burning bush
we are all treehuggers
we've just lost the art of hugging
Shoutout to Miriam Woolley, Anon C *Paper*, and all the treehuggers out there.
Dorothy A Nov 2010
Like noble, wooden soldiers
Are the lovely autumn trees
How I love those autumn trees!
How I love their brilliant leaves!

Not able to walk,
Not able to talk,
But those Autumn trees
Stand there,
Stoically,
Silently,
And they speak
And move just the same
I can hear their tale
In my heart,
In my soul,
For there within rings the message of
Rennaissance and renewal

They are rooted in place
Like guards of the land
Their grand colors,
As Autumn showers
Of fiery rain,
Yet harmless and peaceful
As the leaves descend
To the ground for their final destination
The earth now becomes
A patchwork quilt
From the release of Fall foliage

They truly are like royalty,
Adorned in fine fitting robes
That have been splashed with
Nature's paintbrush of  
Gold, scarlett and blazing orange,
A kaleidoscope of stylish colors
A dazzling tapestry to behold!

But they must now shed
Their Fall finery
In an ancient tradition
The cycle of the seasons
They've endured throughout the ages

Their leaves become as
Paper to the wind
Yet they shall not suffer loss,
For soon they shall be
Blanketed in glorious white,
Like a luxurious fur
To clothe them once again
In Winter's fashion

To endure all that the weather
Has to throw at them
The tempests, the droughts--
We humans can glean
The seeds of the wellspring of life
Harvested from these trees
These days of Autumn's reign,
That have reaped the seasons of growth
From Spring and Summer

Autumn helps to instruct me
To keep my eye out on the horizon,
Watching and waiting
For life has not adandoned us in this season
But will return to us all in Spring,
On that you can fully rely upon

The nature of the trees--
Harboring birds,
And other creatures,
Sheltering the land,
Is one of kindness
I never tire of their beauty,
Their majestic branches
That spread out in
Growing abundance,
Bearing life-sustaining fruit

After all their leaves
Have finally left them
They stand there,
Now naked and eerily haunting,
Like upside-down brooms
sweeping the endless skies
And we mortals, in turn,
Sweep and rake away
The remnants of their Fall spectacle
From the layering of the land

The children realize the Autumn gift
As their playful hearts gather up
The leaves to freely jump into
The cushioning piles,
Into the mounds of fading colors


Why do I love Fall so much?
With all those dark, cloudy days?
With the sun becoming scarce?

I love Fall so much
Because it reminds me of hope,
Of what will eventually grow once more,
Not just of the obvious loss of green leaves
I see the fragility of life,
And the strength of it, too,
As the leaves descend to the ground
Shrivel up into brown decay
And crunch beneath our feet

No, Fall is only a temporary moment
Of nature readying itself for slumber
It must make way for Winter
The grandfather of the year to come,
To replace these days of Autmn trees...
Where nothing can ever grow,
Where the land is now barren,
Where the ice and snow take over,
And survival is never taken for granted

But Winter shall make way for Spring,
Where the cold, hard, lifeless ground
Warms up to nurture the tender seeds
Of flowers that have withered and died
For it is a time for another chance
The land awakening to embrace life again

Without such seasons of life how do we
Dream of brand new beginnings?
We clearly see that life must succeed death
Nature is surely our teacher
If only we look for its lessons
johnny solstice Jun 2019
Once upon a time and tide
When many trees grew tall and wide
And sunny days were snuggly warm
When people walked with happy face
And giggle mouth among the ferns
And shrubs and lavender
And hollyhock and hunnysuckle

When all the light was dappled
When bellies were pie-appled
And hunnytree was for hunnybee
And daisies gently stroked our knees
And buttercups were twelve foot three
And mushyrooms turned upside-down
Made lovely boats for sailing round
The lake on a summers day

Oh once upon a time and tide
When many trees grew tall and wide
In wintertime the Leshy died
Or so it seemed to those indoors
Who'd forgotten how to walk
Because come the spring
The woods shall ring
With the laughter of the Leshy
They never die, just return anew
To make the forest sing

Oh once upon a time and tide
Oh once upon a time and tide

Leshy looked like me and you
Except of course their skin was blue
And their hair was of a greenish hue
Which hung in matted locks it grew

Oh once upon a time and tide
Oh once upon a time and tide

The Leshy walked on earthly mother
Guided by their heavenly fathers
Drawn along by sista moon
And the secrets of the stars

and once upon a time and tide
when many trees grew tall and wide
when everybody lived outside
then everyone was Leshy

Oh once upon a time and tide
Oh once upon a time and tide

Now migration paths have all but gone
To people who decide what's wrong
Who make the laws for standing still
And legislate which slaves may ****

Oh once upon a time and tide
Oh once upon a time and tide

Now every where’s a prison coz it has a door
And the closest place to heaven is lying on the floor
Outside of doors
Inside the world
Inside your head
The softest bed
Where you can lie
And learn to fly
And float and fall
And remember it all
And remember it all

Oh once upon a time and tide
Oh once upon a time and tide

When many trees grew tall and wide
And everyone lived outside
And buttercups were twelve foot three
And we were children you and me
And all were children you must agree
That there never was any "poverty"
Till lazybones invented "property"
Plus building houses and staying put
And chopping trees and hoarding loot
Till there's nothing left that looks like wood
There's no out side
Its inside out
And upside down
And back to front
So there's nothing better left to do
Than swap your shoes and take your cue
Then turn your clothing inside out
And show your labels as you shout
For more and more of less and less
And more and more of less and less
Means less and less for evermore
And no more trees means no more bees
And no more bees means no more seed
And no more seed means no more home
And no more home means you and me
Have got to see
If you want to live with trees
Then a nomad you must be
If you want to live with trees
Yes a nomad you must be
If you want to live with trees

And if you want to see the trees
Grow tall and strong and wide
You'll have to learn to live outside

And once upon a time and tide
When many trees grew tall and wide
Your giggle face you'd never hide
Your chuckle tum will ever show
So everyone shall ever know
That inside out is where you are
And life outside is best by far
And happy on the outside
Means happy on the inside

Oh once upon a time and tide
Oh once upon a time and tide

— The End —