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Mick Gloss Oct 2013
Secret Garden...
All I could do was hold you. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I knew I had to hold you. I could feel your tears on my neck and chest as you buried your head into me. Like somehow pressing your body against mine was going to make it all okay. All of the pain that I knew you were feeling, all of the hurt that you had been keeping in. It would all be ****** out of you and into me. I don’t know who wished for that more, you or me. Honestly, I think in that moment I wanted it more than you did, because I don’t think you even really knew what was happening. You were letting me see the real you. The boy who lived inside the 40-foot walls. The one you keep hidden because the other kids have hurt him in the past. The boy I was given glimpses of, but could never hold onto. The intangible, ephemeral being that pulled at my heart strings in every way possible. He was in my arms, and I tried to keep him safe. I hoped that if I showed you that he was safe with me, he wouldn’t have to go away. He could stay, and I could know whom he really was, because more than protecting him, I desired to know him. Even if he hurt me, I wanted to know him. I wanted to look into his eyes, and know why he did the things he did. I wanted to know what could cause the pain that I sensed from the very beginning. That is my curse. Empathy. My entire life I could tell when something was wrong with someone. Often I knew it before they did. But with him, I didn’t even have to sense it. I could feel his pain as if it was my own. Whereas for most people I have to observe to know if something is wrong, for him I feel it as clearly as I feel the wind. I can’t see it touching me, but I can feel it down to my bones. But knowing someone’s in pain, and being able to help them are two different things, and therein lies my curse. I have been doomed to feel his pain since we met, but I have been kept away from his heart since then too. Alcohol became his gateway of letting me in, though. After just the right number of shots, the boy behind the walls would get the chance to speak. He’d tell me of the garden in which he lived, and the things that happened to him there. But when he saw me peeking over the edge, he’d disappear. Sometimes he’d come back right away, and talk to me until he felt his time was up, and then politely ask me to leave. Other times he’d stay hidden, and send guards to make sure I wasn’t allowed anywhere near the wall. Tonight, though, he built me a door. A door that only I would be allowed to see for all of eternity, while he, and everyone else, would only see the wall. A door he’d forgotten existed as soon as he closed his eyes to slumber that night. But in that moment, I was in the garden. I saw the flowers, I held him, and I left part of myself behind. I don’t think even he knows that it’s there, but there it will remain. Maybe one day it will be discovered. Maybe one day it will return to me, and leave the boy alone in the garden forever. Maybe it will remain untouched for all of eternity. The only thing I know for certain is that it is there, and for now, there is will it remain.

Outside The Garden...
The walls stood at least 40 feet tall. Cold, dark, damp, stone structures that mocked my very being. They had vines and moss covering their entire surface. They were so engrossed that I almost didn’t realize there was stone underneath the greenery. These walls were strong. It was as if some mystical force had placed them there. They seemed untouchable and eternal. Yet they were as approachable as a tree in a forest. So, I began to climb. The vines seemed strong as first. Firm and healthy in my hands. Then, suddenly, they began to peel away from the wall. The just healthy vines began to whither in my hand. The wall knew I was close to the top, and this was the only way it could keep me from my goal. Suddenly I felt myself slipping. Then it happened, I fell. I hit the ground with a thud. As I was feeling the worst of the pain, I looked back up at the wall. The vines had reattached themselves to it, and returned to their former healthy state. This was true from the bottom to the top. As I looked to the top of the wall, I saw him, and I remembered. He was the reason why I was trying to get inside the walls, but he was also the reason I couldn’t. The wall was solid, I was solid, but he was anything but. Everything about him is intangible. Yet somehow his grip on my heart is as solid as the walls he hides behind. 4 months have gone by, and his unattainable figure has my heart in an iron grip. Even as I’m realizing this, his body disappears from the wall. He is now back in the garden which I was so violently expelled from.

Key To The Garden...
The stone was cold beneath my hands. I wondered how the plants growing on the walls could survive its frigid touch. Yet, somehow, they seemed to thrive. This wall that did nothing but cause me misery was giving these vines a home. A home that they seemed extremely happy in. I, however, was not happy. I was left at the base of this wall, yet again, with no way of getting in. The boy had removed the door. I could feel where it had once been in the wall, but I could no longer see it. He took it away. At first I thought it was by magic, some glamour to make me forget about its existence, but I soon learned that it was in fact gone. The stone where the door had once been was a different color than the rest of the wall. This stone was newer, and stronger. It was meant to send me a message. Stay out. I couldn’t though. No matter how hard I’ve tried, I couldn’t just stay out of the garden. What’s more important is that the boy didn’t want me to either. As often as he would kick me out, he’d try and help me get over the wall. Something keeps us drawn to each other. Then I remembered the missing piece. The last time I was in the garden the boy took a part of me to have as his own. I remember this happening, but everything else is a blur. I can’t figure out what part of me he took, or where he put it. I know that he didn’t take it by force, though. As much as he wanted that part of me, I wanted to give it to him. I longed for a part of me to just be close to him. I just wish I could remember what part of me he took. As I was lost in thought, thumbing my fingers through the vines, I heard a rustle in the leaves behind me. I turned around slowly and was bewildered by what I saw. It was the boy. He had come down from the wall without me knowing, and was now standing face to face with me. He looked upset, and his eyes were filled with tears. This was a sadness that I had seen before. It was truly unique to him, and was my greatest enemy. The sadness was as great as the walls around this boy’s garden, and as deep as my love for him. The tears were ever fixed in the boy’s ocean blue eyes, and no amount of comforting could remove them from their perch. Though I knew this, I still reached out to him anyway. Maybe this time it would be different. Maybe my touch will finally be able to bring a smile to his face that isn’t destined to be fleeting. I clung to this hope as strongly as I clung to the boy’s gentle frame. As soon as my arms wrapped around him, he went completely limp. He fell into me with a familiar feeling that I once called home. As his face hit my chest, his tears left their perch and found their old home. He buried his face against my heart and cried for what felt like hours. As I stood there comforting him, I began to observe his entire being. As he cried his hands shook at my side, and his breath became shallow. I traced the lines of his neck with my eyes until I came upon the necklace that hung down from those very same lines. I looked to the pendant that hung against his nimble chest, and realized that it was glowing. Now only was it glowing, but it was pulsing. Instantly I recognized what it was, my heart. In that moment I remembered the last time I was in the garden. The boy reached in to kiss me goodbye, and I felt his hand against my chest. I gave him my heart with the same willingness that he used to take it. With this knowledge I soon realized what was missing all along. I couldn’t leave these walls because the most important part of me still stood behind them. The most important part of me was with him all along. Though he expelled my body from the garden, he still clung to my heart as if it were his own. After everything we had been through, there it was, around his neck. That is why I couldn’t let go, because he wouldn’t let me. If he never lets me go, how could I let him go? I never wanted to in the first place. It was he that told me to leave the garden. It was he that removed the door that once was only visible to me. It was he that tore my heart from my chest. But it was he that kept it after all this time. He could have destroyed it. He could have given it back. He could have locked it away. But he didn’t. He wore it next to his, hidden from the world, but safe all the while. Our hearts have been for months how our bodies are now. Together. Where they truly belong.

The Base Of The Garden Wall...
Together. What does that even mean? He was here now, but for how long? The boy’s presence was like a flower. When he was around it was beautiful, but it was fleeting. His season never lasted, and he was soon just a memory. Would this time be any different? Could this time be any different? This has happened before. He finds home in me as easily as I find it in him, but he is just as comfortable with leaving. Yet, I’m still holding him. As much as he’s a problem in this situation, so am I. I’m standing at the base of this wall. I’m holding him as he cries. I’m allowing my heart to remain next to his. But is that really so wrong? He’s still clinging to hope. He’s still wearing my heart as a necklace. So, why shouldn’t I hang on to the last shred of hope I have left? This time could be different. This time he could stay. So I’ll continue to hold him. Maybe his hardened nature will rub off on his ephemeral state.

Inside The Garden...
When your crying ceased your body relaxed into mine. Though my mind was racing I couldn’t help but look down at you. After everything that had happened, you were still all that mattered. So I pulled you into my chest. Maybe if I held you tight enough this moment could last a lifetime. Then I felt your body rustling against mine. Before I could even react I felt your lips on my neck. It all rushed back to me. The nights we spent alone, the mornings we hid in bed, the afternoons we spent getting lost in each other’s stories. One kiss and it was as if I was back in each of those moments all at once. Your lips were warm against my neck. They were unique to the rest of your cooled frame. I had forgotten how they felt against my skin. The soft way you followed pure instinct and learned how to press your lips against me. You kissed me like no one else ever had. It was animalistic and passionate. I could feel the desire in every inch of your being, and I always hoped you could feel it in mine. Then, just as suddenly as you had started, you stopped. My memories broke away, and all I could see was your eyes looking into mine. You leaned in and kissed my cheek softer than you ever had before. Then I felt your body pushing mine into the cold stone wall behind me. Just as I began to feel the frigid stone against my back, it seemed to just disappear. I realized that you weren’t pushing me into the wall, but you were pushing me through it. You were finally letting me back into the garden.

The Gardener...
I closed my eyes as I felt my body pass through the now viscous stone wall. Though it had always been cold before, it now felt warm in its altered state. I let myself get lost in the warmth of the now useless wall. For the first time it felt inviting, and nourishing. I now understood the safety and invulnerability you felt behind it. The wall that towered as a harsh enemy to me, stood as your greatest defender. I felt my eyes open as that realization rushed through my entire being. The wall was the last obstacle in the way of me finally knowing you. It kept not only your heart from me, but your soul as well. Yet now, for the first time, I see it as beautiful. The stones I normally saw as dank and lifeless, were now vivid and animated. It was as if standing next to them would rejuvenate even the most foregone person. I turned and looked to see the rest of the garden in which you hid, and I began to cry. The word Eden was the only thing I could say. Just then, I felt a warmth in my body that I had been missing for as long as I can remember. I looked down, and I saw my own heart glowing in my chest. The warmth of the wall couldn’t compare to the feeling that was now inside of me. I turned to look at your face again, but you were gone. I could feel you, but my eyes said you were not there. I spent hours looking through your garden. I climbed the trees, walked the paths, smelled the flowers, hopped the streams, but all the while I never stopped searching for you. It was when I came to the center of the garden that I finally found what I had been looking for. Your heart. It was there, alone, with no one  guarding it. I walked slowly at first, but soon began to run. I was afraid that if I took too long, it would disappear. It didn’t, though. It stayed exactly where it was. So I picked it up, and I held it. I held it like I held you. I pulled it to my chest, and I didn’t let it go. It was mine. You were mine. Suddenly I felt a new warmth in my chest, and I looked down to see that your heart was now entwined with my own. The two would now beat together, as they were always meant to. As I felt the warmth of your heart against mine, I realized that this garden wasn’t the place you went to hide. This garden was you. The rugged stones, the knot filled trees, the out of place flowers, and the rushing streams. They were all you. They were the parts that I longed to know, and I now had an eternity to explore them. You didn’t just let me into your garden, you let me into your soul. You gave me a gift that your frail and nimble frame was unable to give on its own. So you shed it. You exposed your flaws, your twisted branches and ripped leaves, and let me walk right through them. The mistakes you made, the triumphs you doubt happened, the experiences you spent a lifetime amassing. They’re all here. They’re all you. They’re all mine. No, they’re ours. We are now one. This garden is you, and I am now it’s sole gardener. I will tend to each flower as if it was your body, and we will always be together, as one.
So the son of Menoetius was attending to the hurt of Eurypylus
within the tent, but the Argives and Trojans still fought desperately,
nor were the trench and the high wall above it, to keep the Trojans in
check longer. They had built it to protect their ships, and had dug
the trench all round it that it might safeguard both the ships and the
rich spoils which they had taken, but they had not offered hecatombs
to the gods. It had been built without the consent of the immortals,
and therefore it did not last. So long as Hector lived and Achilles
nursed his anger, and so long as the city of Priam remained untaken,
the great wall of the Achaeans stood firm; but when the bravest of the
Trojans were no more, and many also of the Argives, though some were
yet left alive when, moreover, the city was sacked in the tenth
year, and the Argives had gone back with their ships to their own
country—then Neptune and Apollo took counsel to destroy the wall, and
they turned on to it the streams of all the rivers from Mount Ida into
the sea, Rhesus, Heptaporus, Caresus, Rhodius, Grenicus, Aesopus,
and goodly Scamander, with Simois, where many a shield and helm had
fallen, and many a hero of the race of demigods had bitten the dust.
Phoebus Apollo turned the mouths of all these rivers together and made
them flow for nine days against the wall, while Jove rained the
whole time that he might wash it sooner into the sea. Neptune himself,
trident in hand, surveyed the work and threw into the sea all the
foundations of beams and stones which the Achaeans had laid with so
much toil; he made all level by the mighty stream of the Hellespont,
and then when he had swept the wall away he spread a great beach of
sand over the place where it had been. This done he turned the
rivers back into their old courses.
  This was what Neptune and Apollo were to do in after time; but as
yet battle and turmoil were still raging round the wall till its
timbers rang under the blows that rained upon them. The Argives, cowed
by the scourge of Jove, were hemmed in at their ships in fear of
Hector the mighty minister of Rout, who as heretofore fought with
the force and fury of a whirlwind. As a lion or wild boar turns
fiercely on the dogs and men that attack him, while these form solid
wall and shower their javelins as they face him—his courage is all
undaunted, but his high spirit will be the death of him; many a time
does he charge at his pursuers to scatter them, and they fall back
as often as he does so—even so did Hector go about among the host
exhorting his men, and cheering them on to cross the trench.
  But the horses dared not do so, and stood neighing upon its brink,
for the width frightened them. They could neither jump it nor cross
it, for it had overhanging banks all round upon either side, above
which there were the sharp stakes that the sons of the Achaeans had
planted so close and strong as a defence against all who would
assail it; a horse, therefore, could not get into it and draw his
chariot after him, but those who were on foot kept trying their very
utmost. Then Polydamas went up to Hector and said, “Hector, and you
other captains of the Trojans and allies, it is madness for us to
try and drive our horses across the trench; it will be very hard to
cross, for it is full of sharp stakes, and beyond these there is the
wall. Our horses therefore cannot get down into it, and would be of no
use if they did; moreover it is a narrow place and we should come to
harm. If, indeed, great Jove is minded to help the Trojans, and in his
anger will utterly destroy the Achaeans, I would myself gladly see
them perish now and here far from Argos; but if they should rally
and we are driven back from the ships pell-mell into the trench
there will be not so much as a man get back to the city to tell the
tale. Now, therefore, let us all do as I say; let our squires hold our
horses by the trench, but let us follow Hector in a body on foot, clad
in full armour, and if the day of their doom is at hand the Achaeans
will not be able to withstand us.”
  Thus spoke Polydamas and his saying pleased Hector, who sprang in
full armour to the ground, and all the other Trojans, when they saw
him do so, also left their chariots. Each man then gave his horses
over to his charioteer in charge to hold them ready for him at the
trench. Then they formed themselves into companies, made themselves
ready, and in five bodies followed their leaders. Those that went with
Hector and Polydamas were the bravest and most in number, and the most
determined to break through the wall and fight at the ships. Cebriones
was also joined with them as third in command, for Hector had left his
chariot in charge of a less valiant soldier. The next company was
led by Paris, Alcathous, and Agenor; the third by Helenus and
Deiphobus, two sons of Priam, and with them was the hero Asius-
Asius the son of Hyrtacus, whose great black horses of the breed
that comes from the river Selleis had brought him from Arisbe.
Aeneas the valiant son of Anchises led the fourth; he and the two sons
of Antenor, Archelochus and Acamas, men well versed in all the arts of
war. Sarpedon was captain over the allies, and took with him Glaucus
and Asteropaeus whom he deemed most valiant after himself—for he
was far the best man of them all. These helped to array one another in
their ox-hide shields, and then charged straight at the Danaans, for
they felt sure that they would not hold out longer and that they
should themselves now fall upon the ships.
  The rest of the Trojans and their allies now followed the counsel of
Polydamas but Asius son of Hyrtacus would not leave his horses and his
esquire behind him; in his foolhardiness he took them on with him
towards the ships, nor did he fail to come by his end in
consequence. Nevermore was he to return to wind-beaten Ilius, exulting
in his chariot and his horses; ere he could do so, death of ill-omened
name had overshadowed him and he had fallen by the spear of
Idomeneus the noble son of Deucalion. He had driven towards the left
wing of the ships, by which way the Achaeans used to return with their
chariots and horses from the plain. Hither he drove and found the
gates with their doors opened wide, and the great bar down—for the
gatemen kept them open so as to let those of their comrades enter
who might be flying towards the ships. Hither of set purpose did he
direct his horses, and his men followed him with a loud cry, for
they felt sure that the Achaeans would not hold out longer, and that
they should now fall upon the ships. Little did they know that at
the gates they should find two of the bravest chieftains, proud sons
of the fighting Lapithae—the one, Polypoetes, mighty son of
Pirithous, and the other Leonteus, peer of murderous Mars. These stood
before the gates like two high oak trees upon the mountains, that
tower from their wide-spreading roots, and year after year battle with
wind and rain—even so did these two men await the onset of great
Asius confidently and without flinching. The Trojans led by him and by
Iamenus, Orestes, Adamas the son of Asius, Thoon and Oenomaus,
raised a loud cry of battle and made straight for the wall, holding
their shields of dry ox-hide above their heads; for a while the two
defenders remained inside and cheered the Achaeans on to stand firm in
the defence of their ships; when, however, they saw that the Trojans
were attacking the wall, while the Danaans were crying out for help
and being routed, they rushed outside and fought in front of the gates
like two wild boars upon the mountains that abide the attack of men
and dogs, and charging on either side break down the wood all round
them tearing it up by the roots, and one can hear the clattering of
their tusks, till some one hits them and makes an end of them—even so
did the gleaming bronze rattle about their *******, as the weapons
fell upon them; for they fought with great fury, trusting to their own
prowess and to those who were on the wall above them. These threw
great stones at their assailants in defence of themselves their
tents and their ships. The stones fell thick as the flakes of snow
which some fierce blast drives from the dark clouds and showers down
in sheets upon the earth—even so fell the weapons from the hands
alike of Trojans and Achaeans. Helmet and shield rang out as the great
stones rained upon them, and Asius the son of Hyrtacus in his dismay
cried aloud and smote his two thighs. “Father Jove,” he cried, “of a
truth you too are altogether given to lying. I made sure the Argive
heroes could not withstand us, whereas like slim-waisted wasps, or
bees that have their nests in the rocks by the wayside—they leave not
the holes wherein they have built undefended, but fight for their
little ones against all who would take them—even so these men, though
they be but two, will not be driven from the gates, but stand firm
either to slay or be slain.”
  He spoke, but moved not the mind of Jove, whose counsel it then
was to give glory to Hector. Meanwhile the rest of the Trojans were
fighting about the other gates; I, however, am no god to be able to
tell about all these things, for the battle raged everywhere about the
stone wall as it were a fiery furnace. The Argives, discomfited though
they were, were forced to defend their ships, and all the gods who
were defending the Achaeans were vexed in spirit; but the Lapithae
kept on fighting with might and main.
  Thereon Polypoetes, mighty son of Pirithous, hit Damasus with a
spear upon his cheek-pierced helmet. The helmet did not protect him,
for the point of the spear went through it, and broke the bone, so
that the brain inside was scattered about, and he died fighting. He
then slew Pylon and Ormenus. Leonteus, of the race of Mars, killed
Hippomachus the son of Antimachus by striking him with his spear
upon the girdle. He then drew his sword and sprang first upon
Antiphates whom he killed in combat, and who fell face upwards on
the earth. After him he killed Menon, Iamenus, and Orestes, and laid
them low one after the other.
  While they were busy stripping the armour from these heroes, the
youths who were led on by Polydamas and Hector (and these were the
greater part and the most valiant of those that were trying to break
through the wall and fire the ships) were still standing by the
trench, uncertain what they should do; for they had seen a sign from
heaven when they had essayed to cross it—a soaring eagle that flew
skirting the left wing of their host, with a monstrous blood-red snake
in its talons still alive and struggling to escape. The snake was
still bent on revenge, wriggling and twisting itself backwards till it
struck the bird that held it, on the neck and breast; whereon the bird
being in pain, let it fall, dropping it into the middle of the host,
and then flew down the wind with a sharp cry. The Trojans were
struck with terror when they saw the snake, portent of aegis-bearing
Jove, writhing in the midst of them, and Polydamas went up to Hector
and said, “Hector, at our councils of war you are ever given to rebuke
me, even when I speak wisely, as though it were not well, forsooth,
that one of the people should cross your will either in the field or
at the council board; you would have them support you always:
nevertheless I will say what I think will be best; let us not now go
on to fight the Danaans at their ships, for I know what will happen if
this soaring eagle which skirted the left wing of our with a monstrous
blood-red snake in its talons (the snake being still alive) was really
sent as an omen to the Trojans on their essaying to cross the
trench. The eagle let go her hold; she did not succeed in taking it
home to her little ones, and so will it be—with ourselves; even
though by a mighty effort we break through the gates and wall of the
Achaeans, and they give way before us, still we shall not return in
good order by the way we came, but shall leave many a man behind us
whom the Achaeans will do to death in defence of their ships. Thus
would any seer who was expert in these matters, and was trusted by the
people, read the portent.”
  Hector looked fiercely at him and said, “Polydamas, I like not of
your reading. You can find a better saying than this if you will.
If, however, you have spoken in good earnest, then indeed has heaven
robbed you of your reason. You would have me pay no heed to the
counsels of Jove, nor to the promises he made me—and he bowed his
head in confirmation; you bid me be ruled rather by the flight of
wild-fowl. What care I whether they fly towards dawn or dark, and
whether they be on my right hand or on my left? Let us put our trust
rather in the counsel of great Jove, king of mortals and immortals.
There is one omen, and one only—that a man should fight for his
country. Why are you so fearful? Though we be all of us slain at the
ships of the Argives you are not likely to be killed yourself, for you
are not steadfast nor courageous. If you will. not fight, or would
talk others over from doing so, you shall fall forthwith before my
spear.”
  With these words he led the way, and the others followed after
with a cry that rent the air. Then Jove the lord of thunder sent the
blast of a mighty wind from the mountains of Ida, that bore the dust
down towards the ships; he thus lulled the Achaeans into security, and
gave victory to Hector and to the Trojans, who, trusting to their
own might and to the signs he had shown them, essayed to break through
the great wall of the Achaeans. They tore down the breastworks from
the walls, and overthrew the battlements; they upheaved the
buttresses, which the Achaeans had set in front of the wall in order
to support it; when they had pulled these down they made sure of
breaking through the wall, but the Danaans still showed no sign of
giving ground; they still fenced the battlements with their shields of
ox-hide, and hurled their missiles down upon the foe as soon as any
came below the wall.
  The two Ajaxes went about everywhere on the walls cheering on the
Achaeans, giving fair words to some while they spoke sharply to any
one whom they saw to be remiss. “My friends,” they cried, “Argives one
and all—good bad and indifferent, for there was never fight yet, in
which all were of equal prowess—there is now work enough, as you very
well know, for all of you. See that you none of you turn in flight
towards the ships, daunted by the shouting of the foe, but press
forward and keep one another in heart, if it may so be that Olympian
Jove the lord of lightning will vouchsafe us to repel our foes, and
drive them back towards the city.”
  Thus did the two go about shouting and cheering the Achaeans on.
As the flakes that fall thick upon a winter’s day, when Jove is minded
to snow and to display these his arrows to mankind—he lulls the
wind to rest, and snows hour after hour till he has buried the tops of
the high mountains, the headlands that jut into the sea, the grassy
plains, and the tilled fields of men; the snow lies deep upon the
forelands, and havens of the grey sea, but the waves as they come
rolling in stay it that it can come no further, though all else is
wrapped as with a mantle so heavy are the heavens with snow—even thus
thickly did the stones fall on one side and on the other, some
thrown at the Trojans, and some by the Trojans at the Achaeans; and
the whole wall was in an uproar.
  Still the Trojans and brave Hector would not yet have broken down
the gates and the great bar, had not Jove turned his son Sarpedon
against the Argives as a lion against a herd of horned cattle.
Before him he held his shield of hammered bronze, that the smith had
beaten so fair and round, and had lined with ox hides which he had
made fast with rivets of gold all round the shield; this he held in
front of him, and brandishing his two spears came on like some lion of
the wilderness, who has been long famished for want of meat and will
dare break even into a well-fenced homestead to try and get at the
sheep. He may find the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks
with dogs and spears, but he is in no mind to be driven from the
fold till he has had a try for it; he will either spring on a sheep
and carry it off, or be
Zombee Sep 2014
.






Mirror Mirror on the Wall;
Walk with me n be my Friend:
fending oFF thee awful Qualm,
calming all the thoughts of Death.


Mirror Mirror on the Wall;
Talk to me if no one Else.
"tell me what to do aGain?...
...death is gonna Haunchew."


Mirror Mirror on the Wall,
Waltzing in my ball of Hair;
share the Yarn of all you Bear,
spare the Rod n chop the Sheers.


Mirror Mirror on the Wall;
"Welcome to the slums of Hell."
help me Speak in bleeding Tongue.
"vi la Vita......vi de Vel".








Mirror Mirror on the Wall:
wall of Talking thought so Clear;
hear the Fall of waldo's Water,
thrall the Call of ocean Odlaw.


Mirror Mirror on the Wall;
call my Bluff n cuff my Arms,
bar my Cell n sell my Soul,
sow the Seed n reap its Rose.


Mirror Mirror on the Wall;
flaunt my Card n guard the Door.
Youre the one im steering Clear of...
..."ofCourse you are."


Mirror Mirror on the Wall;
all i Know is no ones Lost,
mossy Oak is all i Know,
frozen Walls i call my Home.








Mirror Mirror on the Wall;
all you Are ish ards of Glass;
lashing Out n always Laughing,
laughing as you watch me Ball.


Mirror Mirror on the Wall;
all you Do is use my Tears.
here you Are with all the Cotton,
swabbing all my flaws n Fears.


Mirror Mirror on the Wall;
call me what you always Do:
stupid Queer n weird n Ugly."dont
******* Tell me what to Do."


Mirror Mirror on the Wall;
talk the way you always Have:
Chanting like a ******* Trucker,
Cussing like a ******* Sailor.








Mirror Mirror on the Wall;
Hollow be my only Name.
satan stole my only Halo:
angel of a broken Cross.


Mirror Mirror on the Wall;
Follow me n see my View.
you should see what i have Saw...
...all ive seen is You.


Mirror Mirror on the Wall;
all you Are is all i Am.
have you not a ******* Conscience?...
..."obviously Not."


Mirror Mirror on the Wall;
walk a long this haunted Path.
after That if you can Laugh...
...so can I.








Mirror Mirror on the Wall;
all youve Done is run n Hide.








'and Then...
...tyler was Gone.


was iaSleep?...
...had  i Slept?'


-  Jack's Medulla Oblongata  


.
Mirror Mirror on the Wall;
call my Parent......scared of School.
whos the Fairest......ferris Bueller?...
...You are.
guy scutellaro Oct 2019
The rain ****** through a darkening sky.

The man's eyes grow bright and he smiles. Softly, he whispers, " Man, you're the biggest, whitest, what hell are you anyway?"

The pup sits up and Jack Delleto caresses her neck, but much to the mutt's chagrin the man stands up and walks away.

Jack has his hand on the door about to go into the bar. The pup issues an interrogatory, "Woof?"

The rain turns to snow.

The man's eyes grow bright and he smiles, "My grandma used to say that when it snows the angels are sweeping heaven. I'll be back for you, Snowflake."

Jack shivers. His smile fading, the night jumps back into his eyes.

Snowflake chuffs once, twice.

The man is gone.



The room would have been a cold ,dark place except the bodies who sit on the barstools or stand on the ***** linoleum floor produce heat. The cigarette smoke burns his eyes. Jack Delleto looks down the length of the bar to the boarded shut fire place and although the faces are shadows, he knows them all.

The old man who always sits at the second barstool from the dart board is sitting at the second bar stool. His fist clenched tightly around the beer mug, he stares at his own reflection in the mirror.

The aging barmaid, who often weeps from her apartment window on a hot summer night or a cold winter evening, is coming on to a man half her age. She is going to slip her arm around his bicep at any moment.

"Yeah," Jack smiles, "there she goes."

Jack Delleto knows where the regulars sit night after night clutching the bar with desperation, the wood rail is worn smooth.

In the mirror that runs the length of the bar Jack Delleto sees himself with clarity. Brown hair and brown eyes. Just an ordinary 29 year old man.

"Old Fred is right," he thinks to himself, "If you stare at shadows long enough, they stare back."

Jack smiles and the red head returns his smile crossing her long legs that protrude beneath a too short skirt.

The bartender recognizes the man smiling at the redhead.

"Well,  Jack Delleto, Dell, I heard you were dead. " The six foot, two hundred pound bartender tells him as Dell is walking over to the bar.

"Who told you that?"

"Crazy George, while he was swinging from the wagon wheel lamp." Bob O'Malley says as he points to the wagon wheel lamp hanging from the ceiling.

"George, I heard, HE was dead."

The bartender reaches over the bar resting the palms of his big hands on the edge of the bar and flashes a smile of white, uneven teeth. Bob extends his hand. "Where the hell have you been?"

They shake hands.

Dell looks up at the Irishman. "I ve been at Harry's Bar in Venice drinking ****** Marys with Elvis and Ernest."

Bob O'Malley grins, puts two shot glasses on the bar, and reaches under the bar to grab a bottle of bourbon. After filling the glasses with Wild Turkey, he hands one glass to Dell. They touch glasses and throw down the shots.

"Gobble, gobble," O Malley smiles.


The front door of the bar swings open and a cold wind drifts through the bar. Paul Keater takes off his Giants baseball cap and with the back of his hand wipes the snow off of his face.

"Keater," Bob O'Malley calls to the Blackman standing in the doorway.

Keater freezes, his eyes moving side to side in short, quick movements. He points a long slim finger at O'Malley, "I don't owe you any money," Paul Keater shouts.

The people sitting the barstools do not turn to look.

"You're always pulling that **** on me." Keater rushes to the bar, "I PPPAID YOU."

As Delleto watches Keater arguing with O'Malley, the anger grows into the loathing Dell feels for Keater. The sauve, sophisticated Paul Keater living in a room above the bar. The man is disgusting. His belly hangs pregnant over his belt. His jeans have fallen exposing the crack of his ***, and Keater just doesn't give a ****. And that ragged, faded, baseball cap, ****, he never takes it off.

When Keater glances down, he realizes he is standing next to Jack Delleto. Usually, Paul Keater would have at least considered punching Delleto in his face. "The **** wasn't any good," Paul feining anger tells O'Malley. "Everybody said it was, ****."

The bartender finishes rinsing a glass in the soapy sink water and then places it on a towel. "*******."

Keater slides the Giant baseball cap back and forth across his flat forehead. "**** it," he turns and storms out of the bar.

"Can I get a beer?" Dell asks but O"Malley is already reaching into the beer box. Twisting the cap off, he puts it on the bar. "It's not that Keater owes me a few bucks, "he tells Dell, "if I didn't cut him off he'd do the stuff until he died." Bob grabs a towel and dries his hands.

"But the smartest rats always get out of the maze first," Jack tells Bob.


Cigarette butts, candy wrappers, and losing lottery tickets litter the linoleum floor. Jack Delleto grabs the bottle of beer off the bar and crosses the specter of unfilled wishes.

In the adjacent room he sits at a table next to the pinball machine to watch a disfigured man with an anorexic women shoot pool. Sometimes he listens to them talk, whisper, laugh. Sometimes he just stares at the wall.

"We have a winner, "the pinball machine announces, "come ride the ferris wheel."



"I'm part Indian. "

Jack looks up from his beer. The Indian has straight black hair that hangs a few inches above her shoulders, a thin face, a cigarette dangling from her too red lips.

"My Mom was one third Souix, " the drunken women tells Jack Delleto.

The Indian exhales smoke from her petite nose waiting for a come on from the man with the sad face. And he just stares, stares at the wall.

Her bushy eyebrows come together forming a delicate frown.

Jack turns to watch a brunette shoot pool. The woman leans over the pool table about to shoot the nine ball into the side pocket. It is an easy shot.

The brunette looks across the pool table at Jack Delleto, "What the **** are you starin at?" She jams the pool stick and miscues. The cue ball runs along the rail and taps the eight ball into the corner pocket. "AH ****," she says.

And Jack smiles.

The Indian thinks Jack is smiling at her, so she sits down.

"In the shadows I couldn't see your eyes," he tells her, "but when you leaned forward to light that cigarette, you have the prettiest green eyes."

She smiles.

" I'm Kathleen," her eyes sparkling like broken glass in an alley.

Delleto tries to speak.

"I don't want to know your name," she tells Jack Delleto, the smile disappearing from her face. "I just want to talk for a few minutes like we're friends," she takes a drag off the cigarette, exhales the smoke across the room.

Jack recognizes the look on her face. Bad dreams.

"I'll be your friend," he tells her.

"We're not going to have ***." The Indian slowly grinds out the cigarette into the ashtray, looks up at the man with the sad face.

I met my older sister in Baltimore yesterday. Hadn't seen her since I was nine, since Mom died. I wanted to know why Dad put me in foster homes. Why? I had so many questions and you know what?
I didn't ask one."

Jack is finishing his beer.

"Maybe if you knew the reasons, now, it wouldn't matter anyway."

The man with the black eye just doesn't get it. She lived with them long enough. Long enough to love them.

She stands up, stares at Jack Delleto.

And walks away.


It's the fat blondes turn to shoot pool. She leans her great body ever so gently across the green felt of the pool table, shoots and misses. When she tries to raise herself up off the pool table, the tip of the pool cue hits the Miller Lite sign above the pool table sending the lamb rocking violently back and forth. In flashes of light like the frames from and old Chaplin movie the sad and grotesque appear and disappear.

"What the **** are you starin at?" The skinny brunette asks.

Jack pretends to think for a moment. "An unhappy childhood."

Suddenly, she stands up, looking like death wearing a Harley Davidson T-shirt.

"Dove sta amore," Jack Delleto asks.

Death is angry, steps closer.

"Must be that time of the month, huh," Jack grins.

With her two tiny fists clenched tightly at her side, the brunette stares down into Delleto's eyes. Suddenly, she punches Jack in the eye.

Jack stands up bringing his forearm up to protect his face. At the same time Death steps closer. His forearm catches her under the chin. The bony ***** goes down.

Women rush from the shadows. They pull Jack to the ***** floor, punch and kick him.

In the blinking of the Miller Light Jack Delleto exclaims," I'm being smother by fat lesbians in soft satin pants."  But then someone is pulling the women off of him.

The Miller Lite gently rocks and then it stops.

Jack stands up, shakes his head and smiles.

"Nice punch Dell," Bob O' Malley says, "I saw from the bar."

Jack hits the dust off of his pants, grabs the beer bottle off of the table, takes a swallow. Smiling, he says, "I box a little."

"I can tell by your black eye." O'Malley puts his hand on his friends shoulder. "Come on I'll buy you a shot. What caused this spontaneous expression of love?"

"They thought I was a ******."


2 a.m.

Jack Delleto walks out the door of the bar into the wind swept gloom. The gray desolation of boarded shut downtown is gone.

The rain has finally turn to snow.

His eyes follow the blue rope from the parking meter pole to its frayed end in the plowed hill of snow at the corner of Cookman Avenue.

The dog, Snowflake, dead, Jack thinks.


The snow covers everything. It covers the abandon cars and the abandon buildings, the sidewalk and its cracks. The city, Delleto imagines, is and adjectiveless word, a book of white pages. He steps off the curb into the gutter and the street is empty for as far as he can see. He starts walking.

Jack disappears into empty pages.


Chapter 2


Paul Keater has a room above Maloney's Bar where the loud rock music shakes the rats in the walls til 2a.m. The vibrations travel through the concrete floor, up the bed posts, and into the matress.

Slowly Paul's eyes open. Who the hell is he fooling. Even without the loud music, he would not be able to sleep, anyway.

Soft red neon from the Wagon Wheel Bar sign blinks into his room.

Paul Keater sits up, sighs, resigns himself to another sleepless night, swings his legs off the bed. His x-wife. He thinks about her frequently. He went to a phycologist because he loved her.

Dump the *****, the doctor said.

"I paid him eighty bucks and all he had to say was dump the *****." He laughs, shakes his head.

Paul thinks about *******, looks around the tiny room, and spots a clear plastic case containing the baseball cards he had collected when he was a boy.

He walks to the dresser and puts on his Giant's baseball cap. Paul sits down on the wooden chair by the sink. Turns on the lamp. The card on top is ***** Mays. Holding it in his hand, it is perfect. The edges are not worn like the other cards.

It was his tenth birthday and his dad had taken to his first baseball game and his father had bought the card from a dealer.

Oblivious to the loud rock music filtering into his room, he stares at the card.

Fondly, he remembers.

Dad.


                                     *     

It arrives unobtrusively. His heart begins to race faster.
Jack Delleto rolls away from the cracked wall. He sits up and drops his legs off the bed.

Jack Delleto thinks about mountains.

When he cannot sleep he thinks about climbing up through the fog that makes the day obscure, passing where the stunted spruce and fir tees are twisted by the wind, into cold brilliant light. Once as he climbed through the fog he saw his shadow stretching a half a mile across a cloud and the world was small. Far down to the east laid cliffs and gullies, glaciated mountains and to the west were the plains and cities of everyday life.

The army coat is draped over the back of the chair. In the pocket is his notebook. Jack stands and takes the notebook from the pocket. When he sits in the wooden chair he opens the book and slides the pen from the binder.

When he finishes his story he makes the end into the beginning.



                                           Chapter 3


"I want a captain in a truck." The 10 year old boy with the brown hair tells his mom. "I want it NOW."

His blonde haired mom wearing the gold diamond bracelet nods her head at Jack Delleto. Jack looks up at the clock on the wall. It is only 9a.m. After four years of college Jack has a part time job at K.B. Toy store. "We're all out of them," he tells her for the second time.

"Honey," Blondie tells the boy, they're all out of them."

"YOU PROMISED."

"How about a sargeant in a jeep?

"OK, but I want a missile firing truck , too."

Delleto turns to the display case behind the counter. Briefly, he studies his black eye in the display case mirror and then begins searching the four shelves and twenty rows of 3 inch plastic toys. He finds the truck. His head is aching. He finds the truck and puts it on the counter in front of the boy.

"Sorry, we're all out of the sergeant," Jack tells the pretty lady. The aching in his head just won't go away.

"Mommy, mommy, I want an ATTACK HELIOCOPTER, MOMMMEEE, I WANTAH TTTAAANNNK..."

Jack Delleto leans over the counter resting his elbows on the glass top. The boy is staring at the man with the black eye, at his bruised unshaven face.

"Well, we haven't got any, GODDAMED TANKS. How about a , KICKINTHE ***."

Finally the boy and his mother are quiet.

"My husband will have you fired."

She grabs the boy by the hand. Turns to rush out of the store.

Jack mutters something.

"MMOOOMEEE,  what does..."

"Oh, shut the hell up," the pretty lady tells her son


                              
     

The assistant manager takes a deep drag on her cigarette, exhales, and crosses her arms to hold the cigarette in front of her. Susan looks down at Jack sitting on the stool behind the counter. He stands up. "Did you tell some lady to blow you?" She crushes the cigarette out in the ashtray on the shelf below the counter. "Maybe you don't need this job but I do."

"Sue, there's no smoking in the mall."

"Jack, you look tired," the cubby teenager tells him, "and your eye. Another black eye."

"I was attacked by five women."

'Oh, I see, in your dreams maybe. I see, it's one of those male fantasies I'm always reading about in Cosmo. You re not boxing again, are you Dell?" Sue likes to call him Dell.

"I go down to the gym to work out. Felix says I've got something."

"Yeah, a black eye." Susan laughs, opens the big vanilla envelope, and hands Jack his check.

She turns and takes a pair of sunglasses from the display stand. "You 're scaring the children, Dell ." Susan steps closer looks into Dell's brown eyes and the slips the sunglasses on his face. "Why don't you go to lunch."

                                        
     

It's noon and the mall is crowded at the food court area. Jack gets a 20oz cup of coffee, finds a table and sits down.

"Go over and talk to him. " Susan says. Jack turns his head , looks back, sees the Indian walking towards his table.

"Hello, Kathrine," says jack Delleto.

"My names not Kathrine, it's Kathleen."

Jack pulls the chair away from the table, "Have a seat Kate."

Her eyebrows form that delicate frown. "My names Kathleen." As soon as she sits down she takes a cigarette from the pack sticking out of her pocketbook. "I had to leave. I told the baby sitter I'd only be gone an hour. Anyway you weren't much help."

"How many kids do you have?"

"Just one. A boy, and believe me one is enough. He'll be four in June," Kathleen smiles but then she remembers and abruptly the smile disappears from her face. "Sometimes I see Anthony's father in the mall and I ask him if he'd like to meet his son but he doesn't.

Kathleen draws the cigarette smoke deep into her lungs, tilts her head back, and blows the smoke towards the skylight. Suddenly caught in the sunlight the smoke becomes a gray cloud. " I did nt want to marry him anyway, I don't know why he thought that."

She hears the scars as Delleto talks, something sad about the man, something like old newspapers blowing across a deserted street. She hears the scars and knows never, never ask where the scars came from.


                              
     

As Jack walks towards the bank to cash his check, he glances out the front entrance to the mall. It is a bright, cold day and the snowplows are finishing up the parking lot plowing the snow into big white hills. That is the fate of the big white pup plowed to the corner of Cookman and Main buried deep in ***** snow. At that street corner when the school is over the children will play on the hill never realizing what lay beneath there feet.

The snow must melt; spring is inevitable.

His pup will be back.



                                           Chapter 4


The 19 year old light heavyweight leans his muscular body forward to rest his gloved hands on the tope rope of the ring. He bows his head waiting to regain his breath as his lungs fight to force air deep into his chest. Bill Wain has finished boxing 4 rounds with Red.

Harry the trainer, gently pulls the untied boxing gloves from Red's hands. "Good fight, he says, patting Red on the back as the fighter climbs through the ropes and heads to the showers. Harry hands the sweat soaked gloves to Felix who puts one glove under his arm while he loosens the laces on the other 12ounce glove. He makes the sleeve wider.

"Do you want the head gear?" Felix asks.

Jack Delleto shakes his head and pushes his taped hand deep into the glove.

The old man takes the other glove from under his arm, pulls the laces out, and holds it open. Without turning his head to look at him, Felix tells Harry, "Make sure Bill doesn't cool down. Tell him to shadow box. Harry walks over to Bill and Bill starts shadow boxing.

Jack pushes his hand into the glove. "Make a fist." Jack does. Felix pulls the laces and ties it into a bow.

Felix looks intently into Delleto's eyes. "How does that feel?"

"About right."

"You look tired."

"I am a little."

"Are you sick or is it a woman."

"I'm not sick."

A big smile forms across the face of the former welterweight champion of Nevada. The face of the 68 year old Blackman is lined and cracked like the old boxing gloves that Jack is wearing but his tall body is youthful and athletic in appearance. Above Felix's eyebrows Jack sees the effect of 20 years as a professional fighter. He sees the thick scar tissue and the thin white lines where the old man's skin has been stitched and restitched many times. As he gives instructions to Jack, Felix's brown eyes seem to be staring at something distant and jack wonders if Felix has chased around the ring one time too often his dream.

"And get off first. Don't stop punching until he goes down. You've got it kid and not every fighter does."

Jack and Felix start walking over to the ring.

"What is it I've got?" Jack Deletto wonders.

"Felix puts his foot on the fourth strand of the rings rope and with his hand pulls up the top strand and as Jack steps into the ring, "You've got HEART."

In the opposite corner Bill Wain waits.

"Will he be alright?" Harry asks.

"Bill's tired, " Felix replies, then he tries to explain. "It's not about money. I'm almost 70 and I want to go out a winner." Felix pauses and the offers, he can hit hard with either hand."

"Yeah, but at best he's a small middleweight and he only moves in one direction, straight ahead."

"Harry, I love the guy," Felix puts his hand on Harry's shoulder, he's like Tyson at the end of his career. He'd fight you to the death but he's not fighting to win anymore."

Harry puts his hands in his pocket and stares at the floor. "Do you want me to tell him to go easy." Harry looks up at Felix waiting for an answer.

"I'm tired of sweeping dirt from behind the boxes of wax beans and tuna fish. I'm sick of collecting shopping carts in the rain. A half way decent white heavyweight can make a lot of money. It's stupid for a fighter to practice holding back. Bill's a winner. Jack'll be alright."

Felix hands the pocket watch to Harry so he can time the rounds.

Bill Wain comes out of his corner circling left.

Jack rushes straight ahead.

Felix winks at Jack Delleto and whispers, "The Jack of hearts."



                                           Chapter 5


The front door of the Wagon Wheel bar explodes open to Ziggy Pop's, "YOU'VE GOT A LUST FOR LIFE." Jack Delleto steps over the curb and vanishes into the dark doorway.

"HEY, JACK, JACK DELLETO," The lanky bartender shouts over the din.

Delleto makes his way through the crowd over to bar. How the hell have you been Snake?" Jack asks.

"Just great," says Snake. "You're lookin pretty ****** good for a dead man."

"Who told you that? Crazy George?"

The bartender points across the room to where a man in a pin stripe suit is swinging to and fro from a wagon wheel lamp attached to the ceiling.

"Yeah, I thought so. Haven't seen Crazy George in a year and he's been telling everyone I'm dead. I'm gonna have to have a long talk with that man."

Snake hands Jack a shot of tequila. The men touch glasses and throw down the shots.

How's the other George? Dell asks.

"AA."

"How's Tommy? You see him anymore?"

"Rehab."

"What about Robbie?"

Snake refills the glasses. "He's livin in a nudist colony in Florida, he has two wives and 6 children."


Jack looks across the room and sees Bob O'Malle3y trying to adjust the rose in the lapel of his tuxedo. Satisfied it won't fall out O'Malley looks up at the man swinging from the lamp. "Quick, name man's three greatest inventions."

"Alcohol, tobacco, and the wheel," Crazy George shots back.

O'Malley smiles and then jumps up on the top of the bar and although he is over six feet and weighs two hundred pounds, he has the dexterity and grace of a ballerina as he pirouttes around and jumps over the shot glasses and beer bottles that litter the bar.

Wedding guests lean back in their chairs as strangers fearful of his gyrations ****** their drinks off the bar. Bob fakes a slip as he prances along but he is always in control and never falters. Forty three year old Bob O'Malley is Jim Brown who dodges danger to score the winning touch down.

When is reaches the end of the bar he jumps to the floor, pulls two aluminum lids from the beer box, and with one in each hand he smacks them together like cymbals.

Some guests clap. The bemused just stare.

In the back of the room sitting at the wedding table the father of the bride leans over, whispers into the ear of his crying wife, "If I had a gun I'd shoot Bob."

The bride raises a glass of champagne into the smoke filled air and Bob takes a bow but then heads towards the kitchen at the other end of the room.

" Hey, Bob," Jack Delleto shouts to the groom.

O'Malley stops under the wagon wheel lamp and turns as Delleto steps into the  circle of light cast onto the floor.

"Congratulations, I know Teresa and you are goin to be happy. I mean that." Delleto offers his hand and they shake hands.

"Thanks, Mr. Cool."

Jack takes off the sunglasses.

"TWO black eyes. Your nose is bleeding. What happened?"

Dell takes the handkerchief from his back pocket, wipes the blood dripping down his face. "It's broken."

"What happened?" O'Malley asks again.

"Bill Wain."

"He turned pro."

"Yeah, but he's nothing special. Hell, he couldn't even knock me down."

O'Malley shakes his head.

"Thersa's beautiful, Bob, you're a lucky guy."

"Thanks Dell." O'Malley puts his hand on Dell's shoulder and sqeezes affectionately. Bob looks across the room at Teresa. "Yeah, she is beautiful. Teresa mother has stopped crying. Her father just stares at the wall.

O'Malley looks away from his bride and passed the archway that divides the poolroom from the bar and into the corner. With the lamp light above his head gleaming in his eyes Bob seems to see a ghost fleeting in the far distant, dark corner. Slowly, a peculiar half smile forms uneven, white, tombstone teeth.  A sad  smile.

Curious, Dell turns his head to look into the darkness of the poolroom, too.

At night in July the moths were everywhere. When Dell was a boy he would sit on his porch and try to count them. The moths appeared as faint splashes of whiteness scattered throughout the night, odd circles of light that moved haphazardly, forward and then sideways, sometimes up and down.

Sometimes the patches of moths flew higher and higher and Dell imagined the lights those creatures were seeking were the stars themselves; Orion, the big dipper and even the milky hue of the Milkyway.

One night as the moths pursued starlight he saw shadows dropping one by one from the tops of the trees. The swallows were soundless and when he caught a glimpse of sudden darkness, blacker than the night, he saw the dreamer and its dream erased.

There are shadows within, shades uncounted.

His imagination gave definition to form. There was a sound to the shadows of the swallows and in his thoughts he heard the melody and the song played over and over.

"Do you hear them, Bob?"

"Hear what?" Bob asks.

"Nothin," Delleto tells his friend, "Nothin."

O'Malley doesn't understand but it does not matter. The two men have shared the same corner of darkness.

Bob calls to Paul Keater. Keater smiles broadly, slides the brim of his Giant baseball cap to the side of his forehead. The two men disappear through the swinging kitchen door.


                                          Chapter 6


"Hello Kate." Jack Delleto says and sits down. She has a blue bow in her hair and make up on.

"My names Kathleen."

She fondles the whiskey glass in her slim fingers. "Hello, Dell, Sue thinks Dell is such a **** name. Kathleen takes a last drag on her cigarette, rubs it out in the ashtray. What should I call you."

"How about, Darlin?"

She looks up from her whiskey glass, "Hello, Jack, DARLIN," her soft, deep voice whispers. Kathleen crosses her legs and the black dress rides up to the middle of her thigh.

Jack glances at the milky white flesh between the blue ***** hose and the hem of her dress. Kate is drunk and Dell does not care. He leans closer, "Do you wanna dance?"

"But no one else is dancing."

Well, we can go down to the beach, take a walk along the sand."

"It's twenty degrees out there."

"I'll keep you warm."

"All right, lets dance."

Jack stands up takes her by the hand. As Kathleen rises Jack draws her close to him. Her ******* flatten against his chest. He feels her heart thumping.

She rests her head on his shoulder. "What do you what more that anything? What do you dream about at night?"

"Nothing."

"Come on," she says," what do you want more than anything? Tell me your dreams."

Jack smiles, "Just to make it through another day."  He smiles that sad smile that she saw the first time they met. "Tell me what you want."

Kate lifts her head off of his shoulder and looks into his eyes."I don't want to be on welfare the rest of my life and I want to be able to send my son to college." She rests her cheek against his, "I've lived in foster homes all my life and every time I knew one day I'd have to leave, what I want most is a home. Do you know the difference between a house and a home?"

"No."

Her voice is a roaring whisper in his ear, "LOVE."

The song comes to an end and they leave the circle of light and sit down. Kate takes a cigarette from the pack.

Dell strikes a match, "Maybe someday you'll have your home."

"Do you want me to?"

"Yeah."

Kate blows out the match.


                                  
     


"Can you take me home?" Kate asks slurring her words.

Kathleen and Jack walk over to where the bride and groom are standing near the big glass refrigerator door with Paul Keater. When Paul realizes he is standing next to Jack Delleto he rocks back and forth on the heals of his worn shoes, slides his Giants baseball cap back and forth  across his forehead and walks away.

O'Malley bends down and kisses Kathleen on the cheek and turns to shake hands with Dell. "Good luck," says Dell. Kathleen embraces the bride.

Outside the bar the sun is setting behind the boarded shut Delleto store.

"That was my Dad's store, " Jack tells Kate and then Jack whispers to to himself as he reads the graffiti spray painted on the front wall.
"TELL YOUR DREAMS TO ME, TELLME YOU LOVEME, IFYOU LOVE ME TELL ALL YOUR DREAMS TO ME."


                                         Chapter 7


An old man comes shuffling down the street, "Hello Mr. Martin, " Jack says, "how are you?"

"I'm an old man Jack, how could I be," and then he smiles, "ah, I can't complain. How are you?"

"Still alive and well."

"Who is this pretty young lady?"

"This Kate."

Joesph Martin takes Kathleen by the arm and  gently squeezes, "Hello Kate, such a pretty women, ah if I was only sixty," and the old man smiles.

Kathleen forces a smile.

The thick eyeglasses that Mr. Martin wears magnifys his eyes as he looks from Kathleen to Jack, "Have fun now because when you are dead you are going to be dead a long, long time."

"How long?  Delleto inquires.

The old man smirks and waves as he continues up the street to the door leading to the rooms above the bar. He turns to face the door. The small window is broken and the shards of glass catch the twilight.

Joesph Martin turns back looking at the man and young woman who are about to get into the car. He is not certain what he whats to say to them. Perhaps he wants to tell them that it ***** being an old man and the upstairs hallway always smells like ****.

Joesph Martin wants to tell someone that although Anna died seven years ago his love endures and he misses her everyday. Joesph recalls that Plato in Tamaeus believed that the soul is a stranger to the Earth and has fallen into matter because of sin.

A faint smile appears on the wrinkled face of the old man as he heeds the resignation he hears in his own thoughts.

Jack waves to Mr. Martin.  Joesph waves back.The mustang drives off.

Earth, O island Earth.


                                               Chapter 8


Joseph pushes open the door and goes into the hallway. The fragments of glass scattered across the foyer crunch and clink under his shoes. The cold wind blowing through the broken window touches his warm neck. He shivers and walks up the stairs. There is only enough light to see the wall and his own warm breathing. There is just enough light like when he has awaken from a  bad dream, enough to remember who he is and to separate the horror of what is real and what is dreamt.

The old man continues climbing the stairs following the familiar shadow of the wall cast onto the stairs. If he crosses the vague line of shadow and light he will disappear like a brown trout in the deepest hole in a creek.

By the time he reaches the second floor he is out of breath. Joseph pauses and with the handkerchief he has taken from his back pocket he wipes the fog from the lenses of his eyeglasses and the sweat from his forehead.

A couple of doors are standing open and the old man looks cautiously into each room as he hurries passed. One forty watt bulb hangs from a frayed wire in the center of the hallway. The wiring is old and the bulb in the white porcelain socket flickers like the blinking of an eye or the fearful beating of the old man's heart.

When he opens the door to his room it sags on ruined hinges.

Joesph searches with his hand for the light switch.  Several seconds linger. Can't find it.

Finds it and quickly pushes the door shut. He sits down on the bed, doesn't take his coat off, reaches for the radio. It is gone Joseph looks around the room. A small dresser, the sink with a mirror above it. He takes off his coat and above the mirror hangs the coat on the nail he put there.

Hard soled boots echo hollowly off the hallway walls. The echoes are overlapping and he can not determine if the footsteps are leaving or approaching. Joseph grabs the crow bar he keeps under his pillow. Holds it until there is silence.

He lays back on the bed. Another night without sleep. Joseph rolls onto his side and faces the wall.

Earth, O island Earth.



                                           Chapter 9


Tangled in the tree tops a rising moon hangs above the roofs of identical Cape Cod houses.

Jack pulls the red mustang behind a station wagon. Kathleen is looking at Dell. His face is a faint shadow on the other side of the car. "Do you want to come up?" she asks.

Kathleen steps out of the car, breathes the cold air deep into her lungs. It is fresh and sweet. Jack comes around the side of the car just as she knew he would. He takes her into his arms and kisses her and they walk beneath the old oak tree and the roots have raised and crack the sidewalk and in the spring tiny blue flowers will bloom. The flowers remind Jack of the columbines that bloom in high mountain meadows above treeline heralding a brief season of son and warmth.

"Did you win?" Kathleen asks as she fits the into the upstairs apartment door. The door swings open into the kitchen.

"It doesn't matter."

"You lost?"

"Yeah."

Crossing the room she takes off her coat and places it on the back of the kitchen chair. When Kate leans across the kitchen table to turn on the radio the mini dress rides up her thigh, tugs tightly around her buttocks.

The radio plays softly.

Jack stands and as Kathleen turns he slips his arms around her waist and she is staring into his eyes like a cat into a fire. His body gently presses against the table and when he lifts her onto the table her legs wrap around his waist.

Kathleen sighs.

Jack kisses her. her lips are cold like the rain. His hand reaches. There is a faint click. The room slips into darkness. It is Eddie Money on the radio, now, with Ronnie Spectre singing the baqck up vocals. Eddie belts out, "TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT, I WON"T LET YOU LEAVE TIL..."

When Jack withdraws from the kiss her eyes are shining like diamonds in the moonlight.

The buttons of her dress are unfastened.  Her arms circle his neck and pull him to her *******. "Don't Jack. You mustn't. I just want a friend." His hands slide up her thighs. "I'll be your friend, " says Jack.

"*** always ruins every thing," Her voice is a roaring whisper in his ear. He pulls her to the edge of the table and Ronnie sings, ",O DARLIN, O MY DARLIN, WON'T YOU BE MY LITTLE BABY NOW."


Now that they have gotten *** out of the way, maybe they can talk. Sliding her hands around his face she pulls him closer.

"Jack, what do you dream about? You know what I mean, tell your dreams to me."



                                             Chapter 10



All the windows in the apartment are open. The cool breeze flows through her brown hair. "You're getting too serious, Jack, and I don't want to need you."

"That's because I care for you." Jack Delleto sits down on the bed, caresses her shoulder and Kate pulls away.

"Well I don't need anyone."

"People need people."

There is silence, then, "I only care about my son and Father Anthony."

"What is it with you and the priest?" You named your son Anthony is that because he's the father."

"Your an *******. Get out of here. I don't love you." And then, "I've been hurt by people and you'll get over it."

The lingering silence. Jack gets up from the bed, stares her dark form facing the wall. "Isn't this how it always ends for you?"

The room is quiet and grows hot. When the silence numbs his racing heart, he goes into the kitchen, opens the front door and walks down the steps into the cold rain.


"Anthony," Kathleen calls to her son to come to her from the other bedroom and he climbs into the bed and she holds him close. The ghost of relationships past haunt her and although they are all she has she clings to them.


On the sidewalk below the apartment window Jack stops. He thinks he hears his name being called but whatever he has heard is carried off by the wind.He continues up the  dark street to his Harley.

High in reachless branches of the old oak tree a mockingbird is singing. The leaves twist in the wind and  the singing goes on and on.



                                            
     



The ringing phone.

"Who the hell is this?" The clock on the dresser says 5a.m.

"Jack, I'm scared."

"Kate?"

"Someone broke into my apartment."

"Is he still there?"

"No, He ran out the door when I screamed."



                                         Chapter11


"How hot is it?" Kathleen asks.

The bar is empty except for O'Malley, Keater, a man and a woman.

"98.6,"Says jack The sweat rolls down his cheeks.

"Let's go to the boardwalk."

"When it's hot like this, it's hot all over."

"We could go on the rides."

"I've got the next pool game, then we'll go."

"It's my birthday."

"I bought you flowers."

"Yeah, carnations."

Laughing, Paul Keater slides the brim of his baseball cap back and forth across his forehead. Jack starts for Keater, Katheen steps in front of Jack, puts her hands on his shoulders. "What is it with you , two? But as always you'll say nothing, nothing." As Jack tries to speak she walks over to the bar and sits on the barstool.

"It's my birthday," she tells O'Malley.

When Bob turns from the horse races on he T.V. he notices her long legs and the short skirt. "Hey, happy birthday, Kate, Jack Daniels?"

"Fine."

Filling the glasses O'Malley hands one to Kathleen, "You look great," he tells her.

"Jack doesn't think so. Thanks, at least someone thinks so."

"Hope Jack won't mind," and he leans over the bar and kisses her.

Kathleen looks over her shoulder at Delleto.. Jack is playing pool with a woman wearing a black tight halter top. The woman comes over to jack, stands closer, smiles, and jack smiles back.

The boyfriend stares angrily at Jack.

When Kathleen turns back O'Malley is filling her shot glass.

Jack wins that game, too.



                                                 Chapter 12



"Daddy,"the little girl her hands folded in her lap is looking up at her father. "When will the ride stop? I want to go on."

"Soon, Darling, "her father assures her.

"I don't think it will ever stop."

"The ride always stops, sweetie." Daddy takes her by the hand, gently squeezes.


When the carousel begins to slow down but has not quite stopped Kathleen steps onto the platform , grabs the brass support pole. The momentum of the machine grabs her with a **** onto the ride, into a white horse with big blue eyes. Dropping her cigarette she takes hold of the pole that goes through the center of the horse. She struggles to put her foot in the stirrup, finds it, and throws her leg over the horse. The carousel music begins to play. With a tremble and a jolt, the rise starts. Sitting on the pony has made her skirt ride well up her legs. The ticket man is staring at her but she is too drunk to care. She hands him the ticket, gives him the finger.

The ticket man goes over to the little girl and her father who are sitting in a golden chariot pulled by to black horses.

"Ooooh, Daddy, I love this."

"So do I," The father smiles and strokes his daughters hair.

The heat makes the dizziness grow and as the ride picks up speed she sees two of everything. There are two rows of pin ball machines, eight flashing signs, six prize machines. All the red, blue and green lights from the ride blend together like when a car drives at night down a rain soaked street.

Kathleen feels the impulse to *****.

"Can we go on again?" The little girl asks.

"But the ride isn't over, yet."


Kathleen concentrates on the rain soaked street and the dizziness and nausea lessens. She perceives the images as a montage like the elements that make up a painting or a life. She has become accustom to the machine and its movement. The circling ride creates a cooling breeze that becomes a tranquil, flowing waterfall.

The ponies in front are always becoming the ponies in the back and the ponies in back are becoming the ponies in the front. Around and around. All the ponies galloping. Settling back into the saddle she rides the pony into the ever present waterfall.

You can lose all sense of the clock staring into the waterfall of blue, red and green. Kathleen leans forward to embrace the ride for a long as it lasts.

Just as suddenly as it started, the ride stops, the music stops playing.

Coming down off the pony she does not wait for the ride to stop, stumbles off the platform and out the  Casino amusement park door."****, *******," she yells careening into the railing almost falling into Wesley Lake.

She staggers a few steps, sits down on the grass by the curb, hears the carousel music playing and knows the ride is beginning again, and all the her dreams crawls into her like a dying animal from its hidden place.

And it all comes up from her throat taking her breath away. A distant yet familiar wind so she lies down on the grass facing the  street of broken buildings filled with broken people. From the empting lot of scattered thoughts the mockingbird is singing and the images shoot off into a darkening landscape, exploding, illuminating for a brief moment, only to grow dimmer, light and warmth fading into cold and darkness.




                                      
     

"Your girlfriend is flirting with me," Jack Delleto tells the man. "It's my game."

The man stands up, takes a pool stick from the rack, as he comes towards Jack Delleto the man turns the pool stick around holding the heavy part with two hands.

There is an explosion of light inside Jack's head, he sees  spinning lizards playing trumpets, 3 dwarfs with purple hair running to and fro, but he knows he has to get up off the floor, and when he does he catches the bigger man with a left hook, throws the overhand right. The man stumbkes back. His girlfriend in the tight  black halter top is jumping up and down, screaming at, screaming at Jack Delleto, but Jack does not let up on the man, a left hook to the midsection, hook to the head, spins right, throws the overhand right.

The man does down.

Jack wins.



                                                  CHAPTE­R 13

"I's too much," and Jack looks up from the two lines of white powder at Bob O'Malley. "I'll never be able to fall asleep and I hate not being able to sleep."

" Here," Bob takes a big white pill from his shirt pocket.

Jack drops the pill into his shirt pocket and says, "No more. He hands the rolled up dollar bill to Bob who bends over the powder and like a magician the two lines of white powder disappear. Straightening up, he looks at Dell, "I know you 're hurting Dell , I'm sorry, sad about Kate, too."

Jack becomes quiet, walks through the darkened room over to the bar. Leaning over the bar he grabs two shot glasses and a bottle of Wild Turkey, walks back into the poolroom. He puts the shot glasses on top of the pin ball machine shot. "We have a winner, "the pin ball machine announces. Dell fills the glasses.

"Felix came in the other day, he's taken it hard. Bill Wain knock down four times in the sixth round, lost consciousness in the dressing room, died at the hospital."

"What's the longest you went without sleep? Jack asks.

"Oooohhh, five, six days, who knows, after awhile you loose all track of the clock."

They take the shots and throw them down.

"I wonder if animals dream," Jack wants to know. "I wonder if dogs dream."

"Sure they do, "O'Malley asures him, nodding his head up and down, "dogs, cats, squirrels, birds."

"Probably not insects."

"Why not? Sure they do, june bugs, fleas, even moths, it's all biochemical, dreams are biochemical, mix the right combination of certain chemicals and you'll produce love and dreams."

                                          
     

Jack Delleto goes into the room, studies it. The light from the unshaded lamp on the night stand casts a huge shadow of him onto the adjacent wall. Not much to the room, a sink with a mirror above it next to a dresser, a bed against the wall, a wooden chair in front of a narrow window.

The rain pounds the roof.

The apprehension grows. The panic turns into anger. Jack rushes the white wall, meets his shadow, explodes with a left hook. He throws the right uppercut, the over hand right, tthree left hooks. He punches the wall and his knucles bleed. He punches and kicks the blood stained wall.

At last he is exhausted, collapses into the chair in front of the open window. Fist sized holes in the blood stain plaster revel the bones of the building. The room has been punched and kicked without mercy. The austere room has won.

The yellow note pad, he needs the yellow note pad, finds it, takes the pencil from the binder but no words will come so he writes, "insomnia, the absence of dream." He reaches for the lamp on the night stand, finds it, and turns off the light. The red neon from the Wagon Wheel Bar sign winks soft neon into his room.
The sign pulsates to the cadence of the rock music coming from the bar. Taking the big white pill from his shirt pocket, he swallows it, leans back into the chair watching the shadows of rain bleed down the wall. The darkness intensifys. Jack slides toward the night.



                                           Chapter 14


The rain turns to snow.

With each step he takes the pain throbs in his arm and shoulder socket. His raw throat aches from the drafts of cold air he is ******* through his gaping mouth and although his legs ache he does not turn to look back. jack must keep punching holes with his ice axe, probing the snow to avoid a fall into the abyss.

The pole of the ice axe falls effortlessly into the snow, "**** it, another one."

Moonlight coats the glacier in an irridecent glow and the mountain looms over him. It is four in the mourning and jack knows he needs to be high on the mountain before the  mourning sun softens the snow. He moves carefully, quietly, humbl;y to avoid a fall into a crevasse. When he reaches the top of the couloir the wind begins to howl.

"Da DA DUN, DA DA DUN, HEY PURPLE HAZE ALL AROUND  MY BRAIN."

Jack thinks the song is in his head but the electric guitar notes float down through the huge blocks of ice that liter the glacier and there standing on the arête is Jimi, his long dexterous fingers flying over the guitar strings at 741 mph.

"Wait a minute, " Jack wonders, stopping dead in his tracks. The sun is hitting the distant wind blown peaks. "Ah, what the hell," and Jack jumps in singing, shouting, "LATELY THING DON'T SEEM THE SAME, IS THIS A DREAM,  WHATEVER IT IS THAT GIRL PUT A SPELL ON MEEEE< PURRPPLLE HAZEEE."


                                        
     


Slowly the door moans open.

"Jack, are you awake?" her voice startles him.

"Yeah, I'm awake."

"What's the matter, can't sleep?"

Jack sifts position on the chair. "Oh, I can sleep all right." He recognizes the voice of the shadow. "I want to climb to a high mountain through ice and snow and never be found."

"A belly that's empty hurts, I miss you Jack Delleto."

"I'm glad someone does, I miss you ,too."

There is silence for several minutes and the voice comes out of the darkness again.

"Jack, you forgot something that night."

"What?" The dark shape moves towards him. When it is in front of him, Jack stands, slips his arms around her waist.

"You didn't kiss me goodbye."

Her lips are soft and warm. Her arms tighten around his neck and the warmth of her body comes to him through the cold night.

"Jack, what's the matter?" She raises her head to look at him, "Why you're crying."

"Yeah, I'm crying."

"Don't cry Darlin," her lips are soft against his ear. "I can't bare to see you unhappy, if you love me, tell me you love me."

"I m love you, I do," he whispers softly.

"Hold me Jack, hold me tighter."

"I'll never let you go." He tries to hug the shadow.


                                          
      *


The dread begins to grow into an explosion of consciousness. Suddenly, he sits up ******* in the cold drafts of air coming into the room from the open window. Jack Delleto gets up off the chair and walks over to the sink. He turns on the cold water and bending forward splashes water onto his face. Water dripping, he leans against the sink, staring into the mirror, into his eyes that lately seem alien to him.



                                            Chapter 15


Someone approaches, Jacks turns, looks out the open door, sees Joesph Martin go shuffling by wearing a faded bathrobe and one red slipper. Jack hears Martin 's door slam shut and the for thirty seconds the old man screams, "AAHHH, AAAHHH, AAAHH."
Then the building is silent and Jack listens to his own labored breathing.

A glance at the clock. It is a few minutes to 7 a.m. Jack hurries from his room into the hallway.  They pass each other on the stairs. The big man is coming up the stairs and Jack is going down to see O'Malley.

Jack has committed a trespass.

When the big man reaches the top of the stairs, the red exit light flickers like a votive candle above his head. The man slides the brim of his Giants baseball cap back and forth across his forehead, he turns and looks down, "Hello, Jack, brother. Dad loved you, too, you know." An instant later the sound of a door closing reverberates down the hallway steps.

Jack Delleto is standing in the doorway at the bottom of the steps looking out onto the wet, bright street.

"Hey, Jack, man it's good to see you, I heard you were dead."

Jack turns, looks over his shoulder, "Felix, how the hell are you."
The two men shake hands, then embrace momentarily.

"Ah, things don't get any better and they don't get any worse," shrugs the old man and then he smiles but his brown eyes are dull and Jack can smell the cheap wine on the breath of the old boxer. "When are comin back? Man you've got something, Kid, and we're going places."

"Yeah, Felix, I'll be coming back."  Jack extends his hand. The old fighter smiles and they shake hands. Suddenly, Felix takes off down Main Street towards Foodtown as if he has some important place to go.

Jack is curious. He sees the rope when he starts walking towards the Wagon Wheel Bar. One end of the rope is tied around the parking meter pole. The rest of the rope extends across the sidewalk disappearing into the entrance to the bar. The rattling of a chain catches his attention and when the huge white head of the dog pops out of the doorway Jack is  startled. He stops dead in his tracks and as he spins around to run, he slips falling to the wet pavement.

The big, white mutt growls, woofs once and comes charging down the sidewalk at him. The rope is quickly growing shorter, stretches till it meets it end, tightens, and then snaps. Now, unimpeded by the tension of the rope the mutt comes charging down the sidewalk at Delleto. Jack's body grows tense anticipating the attack. He tries to stand up, makes it to his knees just as the dog bowls into him knocking him to the cement. The dog has him pined down, goes for his face. And begins licking him.

Jack Delleto struggles to his knees, hugs her tightly to him. Looking over her shoulder, across Main Street to the graffiti painted on the boarded shut Delleto Market...

                               FANTASY WILL SET YOU FREE

                                                 The End

To Tommy, Crazy George and Snake, we all enjoyed a little madness for awhile.
Bob B Dec 2018
(Can be sung to the tune of "King Herod's Song" from JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR)

Oh, I feel a duty to my donors and my base.
If I don't act, Rush and Ann will say I'm a disgrace.
I pass laws…to titillate my fans.
I hate it when dissenters disagree with all my plans.

So give me my wall, my huge, giant wall.
It's a promise that I made.
Join me in my wall crusade.
Come, hear my plea.
Come on and do it for me.
Be nice and give me my wall.

You don't know how hard it is to work with people who
Don't appreciate all the terrific things you do.
My great wall…will be a tour de force.
And little Stevie Miller will be satisfied, of course.

So give me my wall, my huge, giant wall.
If people starve, well, Uncle Sam,
I don't really give a ****.
It feels so nice
To snuggle with ICE.
Come on and give me my wall.

Some say that my wall is useless; they don't understand
How its usefulness will help us keep out contraband,
Druggies and rapists, and all those other sorts.
I will get my way if I keep stacking all the courts.

So give me my wall, a huge, giant wall,
That stretches along our southern border.
Don’t say it's too tall an order.
I'll go to town and shut the government down
Unless you give me my wall.

Oh…yes…please…
Give my me wall, my huge, giant wall.
Five billion bucks should do it.
You say that's too much? Aw, ***** it!
Putin agrees, and so I beg on my knees:
Give me my beautiful wall!

-by Bob B (12-22-18)
Arcassin B Sep 2014
by Arcassin Burnham



Don't lie to me , Don't lie to me , my backs against the wall,
Don't Lie to me
Don't lie to me , Don't lie to me , my backs against the wall,
would you die for me,
Don't lie to me , Don't lie to me , my backs against the wall,
would you cry with me,
Don't lie to me , Don't lie to me , my backs against the wall,
don't leave a memory,
don't lie to me.

Don't lie to me , Don't lie to me , my backs against the wall,
Don't Lie to me
Don't lie to me , Don't lie to me , my backs against the wall,
would you die for me,
Don't lie to me , Don't lie to me , my backs against the wall,
would you cry with me,
Don't lie to me , Don't lie to me , my backs against the wall,
don't leave a memory,
don't lie to me.

Don't lie to me , Don't lie to me , my backs against the wall,
Don't Lie to me
Don't lie to me , Don't lie to me , my backs against the wall,
would you die for me,
Don't lie to me , Don't lie to me , my backs against the wall,
would you cry with me,
Don't lie to me , Don't lie to me , my backs against the wall,
don't leave a memory,
don't lie to me.
poetic mafia
Babygirl Aug 2015
Mirror Mirror on the wall...
Can you see the through the most broken of us all?
Can you look in my eyes and see the pain i hide.
Can you feel the pain of when i bit my tongue so hard i cried?
Mirror Mirror on the wall..
You're the one who can see when i drop the ball..

Mirror Mirror on the wall, can you see the darkness in us all?
Mirror Mirror on the wall, can you see the way i walk the tightrope about to fall.
Broken pieces of myself are all that you reflect back to me.
Pain and Anger all that seem to be...
Mirror Mirror on the wall, can you keep my darkest secret hidden?
Mirror Mirror on the wall, can you see whats been forbidden?

Mirror Mirror on my wall..
You're the reason for death i call.
I see my reflection in you and i hate me more and more.
You show me the imperfections i tried to bury in the deepest drawer.
Mirror Mirror on my wall...can't you see?
You're slowly killing me..

Mirror Mirror on my wall, can you see the pounds going away?
Mirror Mirror on my wall, i havent eaten for weeks, im happpy to say.
I don't think you know just what you're doing to this broken soul.
I don't think you meant to hurt her like you did, that wasn't your end goal.
Mirror Mirror on my wall, do i look good enough for you now?
Mirror Mirror on my wall, i am dying because of our secret vow.

Mirror Mirror on my wall, can you see the crack..?
I am skinny enough for you to see my spine through my back...
I am dying, i know it's to late for me...
I just wanted to be perfect, can't you see?
I close my eyes and fall asleep, only to fly with the angels above.
Broken Mirror on my wall, my casket fit my small body like a glove.
RAJ NANDY Dec 2017
THE TRUE STORY OF JERUSALEM IN VERSE :
  FOLLOWING DONALD TRUMP'S RECOGNITION
Dear Readers, to usher in the spirit of Christmas, I wish to
share with you the true Story of Jerusalem in Verse. Based on
Biblical chronology, and several articles about its Early History.
Though the three of our World’s greatest religions have a common
lineage, yet religious bickering and hatred continues to exist in
our present age! Let this Season of Christmas bring peace with
goodwill and love. Let us all pray together for a peaceful World!
If you like this true story, kindly recommend it to all your poet
friends to read this slice of History. Thanks, from Raj Nandy.

   STORY OF JERUSALEM - GOD'S “PROMISED LAND”
                         IN VERSE: By Raj Nandy
                  
                       INTRODUCTION
After reading my ‘Arab Contribution to Science’ and the
downfall of Islam’s Golden Age,
A friend had requested me to write about The Crusades.
Now the Mongol contribution was far greater towards
Islamic Empire’s downfall,
For though the First Crusade besieged the Holy City of
Jerusalem making it fall,
The subsequent Crusades to the Seljuk Turks lost all!
But before writing about the Nine Crusades proper,
To acquaint my readers with the historic city of
Jerusalem becomes my present endeavor.
For Jerusalem is sacred to the Jews, Christian, and the
Muslims alike,
As their holy relics and shrines are housed in that Old
City’s revered sites!
But prior to narrating the story of Old Jerusalem City,
Let me tell you briefly about its early history.
About the patriarch Abraham, whom God led to this
‘Promised Land’.
From where this true story of Jerusalem really began.

                 HISTORICAL  BACKGROUND
The city of Jerusalem was twice razed to the ground.
Besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, captured and
recaptured 44 times, surprising as it all may sound!
In an era of idolatry and multiple gods, Abraham born*
in the ancient City of Ur,# believed in a single God!
(1800 BC)
So God was pleased and in a covenant with Patriarch
Abraham,
Blessed him to become the ‘Father of Many Nations’
in a distant ‘Promised Land’!
Thus Abraham with his wife Sarah and nephew Lot,
Entered the Land of Canaan as promised by God.
But when a famine ravaged the Land of Canaan,
Abraham had moved onto Egypt on his own!
Having suffered there for some ungodly acts, his
return to the Land of Canaan remains a historical fact.
Through Abraham and Sarah’s Egyptian maid Hagar, -
his son Ishmael was born.
From Ishmael descended the ‘Ishmaelites’, to
become the Twelve Arab Tribes later on!
Next, with the blessings of the Lord, to Abraham
and Sarah son Isaac was born.
Isaac’s son Jacob fathered the Twelve Jewish Tribes,
Who became collectively known as the ‘Israelites’.
From the ‘Tribe of Benjamin’ came King Saul, the
first King of united Israel rising tall.
From the ‘Tribe of Judah’ King David, Solomon, and
several Kings of Judah did rise;
As proud forefathers of the Messiah Jesus Christ!
Thus in Judaism both the Arabs and the Christians
find a common lineage;
Yet unfortunately bitter differences continue to
exist even in our present age!
NOTES: Canaan was the ancient name of a large & prosperous
country (at times independent, at others a territory to Egypt),
which roughly corresponds to present day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel. Canaan
was also known as ‘Phoenicia’ between 3200 BC & 539 BC. # Ur = an important
Sumerian city-state in ancient Mesopotamia.


           ORIGINS OF JERUSALEM
Jerusalem has been hailed by many names,
Gets mentioned as ‘Rushalium’ in an ancient
Egyptian text!  (2000 BC)
Also as Salem, Moriah, Jebus and Zion, this capital city
of the Israelites had been known.
Jerusalem as the remnant town of Salem, is also
mentioned in the ‘Book of Joshua’ Chapter Ten.
It was earlier a Jebusite City, which was conquered by  
King David around 1003 BC;
When David shifted his capital to Jerusalem from Hebron.
In Jerusalem he kept the Holy Ark in a sacred Tabernacle,
For which his son King Solomon had built the First Great
Temple.
This Sacred Ark contained the ‘Ten Commandments’,
Which accompanied the Israelites during their 40 years
of desert wandering with Moses, as their guidance!
But since majority of the tribes were hesitant to fight the
Canaanites for their ‘Promised Land’,
God blessed Joshua, the successor of Moses, to lead the
Tribes to their ‘Promised Land’.
NOTE: Jebusite was one of the ancient Canaanite tribes, conquered by
King David.

        TURBULENT HISTORY OF JERUSALEM
Now cutting across several centuries of its dynamic
history, let me continue with Jerusalem’s Story.
The death of King Solomon (931 BC) ended Israel’s
‘Golden Age’,
And this united Kingdom of Israel was split into
Northern and Southern states.
Ten Tribes formed the Northern Kingdom of Israel
with its capital at Samaria;
While Jerusalem became the capital of the Southern
half called Judea.
In unity lies strength, and in division further dissention;
This kingdom of King David and Solomon now becomes
prey to several foreign invasions!
Jerusalem gets attacked by the Egyptians, Assyrians,
Babylonians, Persians, and those imperial Romans, who
had initially built but later destroyed the Second
Jewish Temple!
The cruel King Herod, Judea’s Roman Protector,
Though of unstable mind, was a great builder!
‘The Wailing Wall’ and most of the ruins visible today,
Were built by the despot Herod as Archeologists say!
King Herod enlarged the Temple Mount with a massive
retaining wall around it.
Renovated the Second Temple which finally acquired  
his name!
But in 70 AD the Roman Emperor Titus, razed this
Second Temple to the ground, as Historians inform us!
Jerusalem had some peace under the Christian Byzantine
Emperor Constantine,
Who upheld Christianity, and his mother Helena inspired
the building of many hallowed shrines;
Only to be occupied by the Seljuk Turks later, who
desecrated those shrines!
Till the First Crusade in 1099 captured Jerusalem, to
provide eighty eight years of respite.
Next in 1187 the Seljuk Turk Saladin conquered Jerusalem;
When a peace treaty with Richard ‘The Lion Heart’ allowed
the visit of its ‘Holy Shrines’ by the Christians.
The British captured Jerusalem from the Ottoman Turks
in Nineteen hundred and seventeen;
And in 1948 the State of Israel was born, realizing
Abraham’s dream!
But surrounded by hostile enemies on all sides, Israel
had to fight continuously for its survival as a Nation;
And now I pause to pay my humble tribute to those
valiant Israelites with salutation!

           THE OLD CITY OF JERUSALEM
Nestled on the hollow of the hills of Judea this city
spreads out on a plateau 800 meters above the sea.
With its Dome shining in the sun, dominating  some five
thousand years of history!
The City stretches 0.9 square kilometers surrounded by
retaining walls between 16 to 46 feet in height.
Which includes more than 200 monuments and sacred
sites!
Until the 1860s the Old City had represented entire
Jerusalem collectively.
But later under the initiative of the British, settlements
outside its wall began confidently.
During 1946 when Israel declared its Independence,
The ‘old city’ remained under the control of the Jordanians;
Only to be liberated during the Six Day’s War in 1967!

           OLD CITY GATES AND QUARTERS
The walls around the Old City stretch for 4.5 kilometers,
With its height varying between five to sixteen meters.
It has 43 surveillance towers and eleven gates.
However, only seven gates remain open as on date.
The current wall was built in 1538 by Sultan Suleiman
the Magnificent.
On the southern side of this wall is the Zion Gate, leading
to the Armenian Quarters overlooking Mount Zion outside;
Where lies King David’s tomb, a Holy Site.
The Dung Gate leads to the Jewish Quarters from the south;
And the way to Al-Aksa Mosque inside the Temple Mount.
The Jaffa or the Main Gate is on the west, with its famous
Citadel and the ‘Tower of David’ built by King Herod.
This gate leads to the Christian Quarters inside, while the
road goes to the port of Jaffa outside.
A New Gate was also built further up on the north-western
side,    (in1898)
For entry of the German Emperor William the Second,
through the Christian side!
The Damascus Gate in the middle of the Northern Wall
was the largest and the most heavily defended Gate.
Where excavations have revealed an old ‘Roman Gate’
beneath it.
Through this Gate had entered the Holy Crusade!
Further east on the northern wall is the ‘Herod’s Gate’,
Leading to the Muslim Quarters and the ‘Souk’, – the
Arab markets.
On the East is the Lions Gate, with carved figure of
lions on the gate’s crest;
Both for the Christian and the Jews this gate has a
special significance!
For this gate marks the walk ‘Via Dolorosa’, the path
taken by Jesus from the Garden of Gethsemane to
his Crucifixion Site,
Where stands the Church of Holy Sepulcher built by
the Emperor Constantine.
In 1967 the Israeli 55th Para Brigade entered through this
‘Lions Gate’, after a hand-to-hand fight with the Jordanians.
When they hoisted the Star of David on the Temple Mount  
to reclaim Jerusalem!
Jerusalem was declared as their Capital City,
Concluding a chapter of its turbulent History!

Since the time of the Crusades Jerusalem has remained
traditionally divided into Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and
Armenian sections;
Each with its sacred Synagogues, Churches, and Mosques,
defying the City’s unification!
Yet amidst the gong of church bells, the call of Muezzin,
and recitation of the Torah,
Old Jerusalem reverberates with a unique religious
euphoria!

           SACRED MONUMENTS AND SITES
‘The Wailing Wall’ is the more popular name for that part
of Western Wall built by King Herod during 19 BC,
Around the Second Jewish Temple which he renovated,
for the world to see!
Today only 167 feet of this exposed ‘Wall’ remains,
which is 62 feet high.
As a solitary witness to that once glorious past, which
evokes a deep sighs!
It is the holiest of Jewish shrines today where they
congregate.
To pray in front of this Sacred Wall and to loudly lament,
The loss of their Great Temple which was once made!
Inside the cracks in the wall many folded papers can be
seen;
Coating their petitions to God with prayers from within!

The Temple Mount is perhaps the oldest of all shrines.
Sacred to both the Christians and the Muslims alike!
For here on a rock alter Abraham had bound his son
Isaac,
Ready to sacrifice him when the Lord put him to a test!
Here King Solomon had built the First Jewish Temple;
Which during 587 BC, was destroyed by the King of
Babylon!
The King also took the Jews into captivity lasting nearly
seventy long years;
And Psalm 137 tells us how the Jews remembering Zion
on the banks of River of Babylon, - shed their tears!
That old song by ‘Bonny M’, now rings in my ears!
This was also the site of the Second Temple destroyed
by the Romans.
Who renamed Jerusalem as ‘Aelia Capitolina’, making
the City pagan!
Al-Aqsa Mosque or ‘The Farthest Mosque’, located on the
Mount, was completed around 705 AD they say.
Has been claimed by the Muslims as the site where their
Prophet traveled ‘during the night’ from Mecca to pray;
And from where angle Gabriel accompanied him to
Heaven or ‘Jannat,’ - all the way!
So they constructed the ‘Dome of The Rock’ to mark
this ascension;
Which around 691 AD saw its completion.
The Golden Gate on the east leading to the Temple Mount,
Was sealed by the Muslims during Sixth Century following
their fears and doubts.
For the Jew’s claim their Messiah will enter through this
Golden Gate one day.
Which unnerved the Muslims whatever one may say.
So outside this sealed gate they also built a cemetery;
Let future events gradually unfold in Jerusalem’s Story!

                       CONCLUSION
Now dear readers I conclude this narration, with some
food for thought and contemplation.
‘Jerusalem’ is mentioned in the Jewish Bible 669 times,
and 154 times as ‘Zion’. (‘Land of Israel’)
In the Christian Bible it is mentioned 161 times; but not
once in the Hindu ‘Gita’, the Buddhist Scriptures, or in
the Muslim Koran;
Not forgetting the fact that God is Supreme and One!
The Koran speaks only of “The Furthest Mosque” where  
the Prophet went to pray,
From Mecca we know Holy Medina comes on the way.*
(please see notes below)
The Holy Bible is also a record of Early Civilizations ,
Supported by Archaeological finds, carbon dating, and
countless excavations.
The Jewish claim to the ‘Land of Canaan’ is more than
3000 years old;
And Israel today occupies 75% of that historic piece of
land we know and have been told!
The Old City in 1981 has been declared as UNESCO’s
Heritage Site.
Let the ‘Spirit of Humanity’ overtake all religious divide!
It is true that History has evolved from the Myths and
Legends of the past.
But it is for us to separate the wheat from the chaff.
I have done adequate research of this Ancient History.
Now I leave it to You my Readers for drawing your own conclusions after reading this true Story!
Thank you readers for reading patiently,
From Raj Nandy of New Delhi .
ALL COPY RIGHTS ARE WITH THE AUTHOR ONLY
*** Dear Readers, I have pointed out in the concluding portion that as per all available evidence, claim of the Holy Kaaba on the Temple Mount by the Muslims is not supported by the true History of Jerusalem!
RAJ NANDY Dec 2015
Dear Readers, to usher in the spirit of Christmas, I wish to
share with you the true Story of Jerusalem in Verse. Based on
Biblical chronology, and several articles about its Early History.
Though the three of our World’s greatest religions have a common
lineage, yet religious bickering and hatred continues to exist
in our present age! Let this Season of Christmas bring peace with
goodwill and love. Let us all pray together for a peaceful World!
If you like this true story, kindly recommend it to all your poet
friends to read this slice of History. Thanks, from Raj Nandy.


   STORY OF JERUSALEM - “THE PROMISED LAND”
                IN VERSE: By Raj Nandy
                  
                       INTRODUCTION
After reading my ‘Arab Contribution to Science’ and the
downfall of Islam’s Golden Age,
A friend had requested me to write about The Crusades.
Now the Mongol contribution was far greater towards
Islamic Empire’s downfall,
For though the First Crusade besieged the Holy City of
Jerusalem making it fall,
The subsequent Crusades to the Seljuk Turks lost all!
But before writing about the Nine Crusades proper,
To acquaint my readers with the historic city of
Jerusalem becomes my present endeavor.
For Jerusalem is sacred to the Jews, Christian, and the
Muslims alike,
As their holy relics and shrines are housed in that Old
City’s revered sites!
But prior to narrating the story of Old Jerusalem City,
Let me tell you briefly about its early history.
About the patriarch Abraham, whom God led to this
‘Promised Land’.
From where this true story of Jerusalem really began.

                 HISTORICAL  BACKGROUND
The city of Jerusalem was twice razed to the ground.
Besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, captured and
recaptured 44 times, surprising as it all may sound!
In an era of idolatry and multiple gods, Abraham born*
in the ancient City of Ur,# believed in a single God!
(1800 BC)
So God was pleased and in a covenant with Patriarch
Abraham,
Blessed him to become the ‘Father of Many Nations’
in a distant ‘Promised Land’!
Thus Abraham with his wife Sarah and nephew Lot,
Entered the Land of Canaan as promised by God.
But when a famine ravaged the Land of Canaan,
Abraham had moved onto Egypt on his own!
Having suffered there for some ungodly acts, his
return to the Land of Canaan remains a historical fact.
Through Abraham and Sarah’s Egyptian maid Hagar, -
his son Ishmael was born.
From Ishmael descended the ‘Ishmaelites’, to
become the Twelve Arab Tribes later on!
Next, with the blessings of the Lord, to Abraham
and Sarah son Isaac was born.
Isaac’s son Jacob fathered the Twelve Jewish Tribes,
Who became collectively known as the ‘Israelites’.
From the ‘Tribe of Benjamin’ came King Saul, the
first King of united Israel rising tall.
From the ‘Tribe of Judah’ King David, Solomon, and
several Kings of Judah did rise;
As proud forefathers of the Messiah Jesus Christ!
Thus in Judaism both the Arabs and the Christians
find a common lineage;
Yet unfortunately bitter differences continue to
exist even in our present age!
NOTES: Canaan was the ancient name of a large & prosperous
country (at times independent, at others a territory to Egypt),
which roughly corresponds to present day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel. Canaan was also known as ‘Phoenicia’ between 3200 BC & 539 BC. # Ur = an important Sumerian city-state in ancient Mesopotamia.


               ORIGINS OF JERUSALEM
Jerusalem has been hailed by many names,
Gets mentioned as ‘Rushalium’ in an ancient
Egyptian text!  (2000 BC)
Also as Salem, Moriah, Jebus and Zion, this capital city
of the Israelites had been known.
Jerusalem as the remnant town of Salem, is also
mentioned in the ‘Book of Joshua’ Chapter Ten.
It was earlier a Jebusite City
, which was conquered by  
King David around 1003 BC;
When David shifted his capital to Jerusalem from Hebron.
In Jerusalem he kept the Holy Ark in a sacred Tabernacle,
For which his son King Solomon had built the First Great
Temple.
This Sacred Ark contained the ‘Ten Commandments’,
Which accompanied the Israelites during their 40 years
of desert wandering with Moses, as their guidance!
But since majority of the tribes were hesitant to fight the
Canaanites for their ‘Promised Land’,
God blessed Joshua, the successor of Moses, to lead the
Tribes to their ‘Promised Land’.
NOTE: Jebusite was one of the ancient Canaanite tribes, conquered by
King David.

            TURBULENT HISTORY OF JERUSALEM
Now cutting across several centuries of its dynamic
history, let me continue with Jerusalem’s Story.
The death of King Solomon (931 BC) ended Israel’s
‘Golden Age’,
And this united Kingdom of Israel was split into
Northern and Southern states.
Ten Tribes formed the Northern Kingdom of Israel
with its capital at Samaria;
While Jerusalem became the capital of the Southern
half called Judea.
In unity lies strength, and in division further dissention;
This kingdom of King David and Solomon now becomes
prey to several foreign invasions!
Jerusalem gets attacked by the Egyptians, Assyrians,
Babylonians, Persians, and those imperial Romans, who
had initially built but later destroyed the Second
Jewish Temple!
The cruel King Herod, Judea’s Roman Protector,
Though of unstable mind, was a great builder!
‘The Wailing Wall’ and most of the ruins visible today,
Were built by the despot Herod as Archeologists say!
King Herod enlarged the Temple Mount with a massive
retaining wall around it.
Renovated the Second Temple which finally acquired  
his name!
But in 70 AD the Roman Emperor Titus, razed this
Second Temple to the ground, as Historians inform us!
Jerusalem had some peace under the Christian Byzantine
Emperor Constantine,
Who upheld Christianity, and his mother Helena inspired
the building of many hallowed shrines;
Only to be occupied by the Seljuk Turks later, who
desecrated those shrines!
Till the First Crusade in 1099 captured Jerusalem, to
provide eighty eight years of respite.
Next in 1187 the Seljuk Turk Saladin conquered Jerusalem;
When a peace treaty with Richard ‘The Lion Heart’ allowed
the visit of its ‘Holy Shrines’ by the Christians.
The British captured Jerusalem from the Ottoman Turks
in Nineteen hundred and seventeen;
And in 1948 the State of Israel was born, realizing
Abraham’s dream!
But surrounded by hostile enemies on all sides, Israel
had to fight continuously for its survival as a Nation;
And now I pause to pay my humble tribute to those
valiant Israelites with salutation!

                              THE OLD CITY
Nestled on the hollow of the hills of Judea this city
spreads out on a plateau 800 meters above the sea.
With its Dome shining in the sun, dominating  some five
thousand years of history!
The City stretches 0.9 square kilometers surrounded by
retaining walls between 16 to 46 feet in height.
Which includes more than 200 monuments and sacred
sites!
Until the 1860s the Old City had represented entire
Jerusalem collectively.
But later under the initiative of the British, settlements
outside its wall began confidently.
During 1946 when Israel declared its Independence,
The ‘old city’ remained under the control of the Jordanians;
Only to be liberated during the Six Day’s War in 1967!

                OLD CITY GATES AND QUARTERS
The walls around the Old City stretch for 4.5 kilometers,
With its height varying between five to sixteen meters.
It has 43 surveillance towers and eleven gates.
However, only seven gates remain open as on date.
The current wall was built in 1538 by Sultan Suleiman
the Magnificent.
On the southern side of this wall is the Zion Gate, leading
to the Armenian Quarters overlooking Mount Zion outside;
Where lies King David’s tomb, a Holy Site.
The Dung Gate leads to the Jewish Quarters from the south;
And the way to Al-Aksa Mosque inside the Temple Mount.
The Jaffa or the Main Gate is on the west, with its famous
Citadel and the ‘Tower of David’ built by King Herod.
This gate leads to the Christian Quarters inside, while the
road goes to the port of Jaffa outside.
A New Gate was also built further up on the north-western
side,    (in1898)
For entry of the German Emperor William the Second,
through the Christian side!
The Damascus Gate in the middle of the Northern Wall
was the largest and the most heavily defended Gate.
Where excavations have revealed an old ‘Roman Gate’
beneath it.
Through this Gate had entered the Holy Crusade!
Further east on the northern wall is the ‘Herod’s Gate’,
Leading to the Muslim Quarters and the ‘Souk’, – the
Arab markets.
On the East is the Lions Gate, with carved figure of
lions on the gate’s crest;
Both for the Christian and the Jews this gate has a
special significance!
For this gate marks the walk ‘Via Dolorosa’, the path
taken by Jesus from the Garden of Gethsemane to
his Crucifixion Site,
Where stands the Church of Holy Sepulcher built by
the Emperor Constantine.
In 1967 the Israeli 55th Para Brigade entered through this
‘Lions Gate’, after a hand-to-hand fight with the Jordanians.
When they hoisted the Star of David on the Temple Mount  
to reclaim Jerusalem!
Jerusalem was declared as their Capital City,
Concluding a chapter of its turbulent History!

Since the time of the Crusades Jerusalem has remained
traditionally divided into Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and
Armenian sections;
Each with its sacred Synagogues, Churches, and Mosques,
defying the City’s unification!
Yet amidst the gong of church bells, the call of Muezzin,
and recitation of the Torah,
Old Jerusalem reverberates with a unique religious
euphoria!

               SACRED MONUMENTS AND SITES
‘The Wailing Wall’ is the more popular name for that part
of Western Wall built by King Herod during 19 BC,
Around the Second Jewish Temple which he renovated,
for the world to see!
Today only 167 feet of this exposed ‘Wall’ remains,
which is 62 feet high.
As a solitary witness to that once glorious past, which
evokes a deep sighs!
It is the holiest of Jewish shrines today where they
congregate.
To pray in front of this Sacred Wall and to loudly lament,
The loss of their Great Temple which was once made!
Inside the cracks in the wall many folded papers can be
seen;
Coating their petitions to God with prayers from within!

The Temple Mount is perhaps the oldest of all shrines.
Sacred to both the Christians and the Muslims alike!
For here on a rock alter Abraham had bound his son
Isaac,
Ready to sacrifice him when the Lord put him to a test!
Here King Solomon had built the First Jewish Temple;
Which during 587 BC, was destroyed by the King of
Babylon!
The King also took the Jews into captivity lasting nearly
seventy long years;
And Psalm 137 tells us how the Jews remembering Zion
on the banks of River of Babylon, - shed their tears!
That old song by ‘Bonny M’, now rings in my ears!
This was also the site of the Second Temple destroyed
by the Romans.
Who renamed Jerusalem as ‘Aelia Capitolina’, making
the City pagan!
Al-Aqsa Mosque or ‘The Farthest Mosque’, located on the
Mount, was completed around 705 AD they say.
Has been claimed by the Muslims as the site where their
Prophet traveled ‘during the night’ from Mecca to pray;
And from where angle Gabriel accompanied him to
Heaven or ‘Jannat,’ - all the way!
So they constructed the ‘Dome of The Rock’ to mark
this ascension;
Which around 691 AD saw its completion.
The Golden Gate on the east leading to the Temple Mount,
Was sealed by the Muslims during Sixth Century following
their fears and doubts.
For the Jew’s claim their Messiah will enter through this
Golden Gate one day.
Which unnerved the Muslims whatever one may say.
So outside this sealed gate they also built a cemetery;
Let future events gradually unfold in Jerusalem’s Story!

                            CONCLUSION
Now dear readers I conclude this narration, with some
food for thought and contemplation.
‘Jerusalem’ is mentioned in the Jewish Bible 669 times,
and 154 times as ‘Zion’. (‘Land of Israel’)
In the Christian Bible it is mentioned 161 times; but not
once in the Hindu ‘Gita’, the Buddhist Scriptures, or in
the Koran;
Not forgetting the fact that God is Supreme and One!
The Koran speaks only of “The Furthest Mosque” where  
the Prophet went to pray,
From Mecca we know Holy Medina comes on the way.
The Holy Bible is also a record of Early Civilizations ,
Supported by Archaeological finds, carbon dating, and
countless excavations.
The Jewish claim to the ‘Land of Canaan’ is more than
3000 years old;
And Israel today occupies 75% of that historic piece of
land we know and have been told!
The Old City in 1981 has been declared as UNESCO’s
Heritage Site.
Let the ‘Spirit of Humanity’ overtake all religious divide!
It is true that History has evolved from the Myths and
Legends of the past.
But it is for us to separate the wheat from the chaff.
I have done adequate research of this Ancient History.
Now I leave it to you for drawing your own conclusions
after reading this true Story!
Thank you readers for reading patiently,
From Raj Nandy of New Delhi .
ALL COPY RIGHTS  ARE WITH THE AUTHOR ONLY
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.
Raziel Jan 2018
Mirror Mirror on the wall,
Is my face prettiest of all,
Mirror Mirror lie to me,
Show me what I want to see,

Mirror mirror on the wall,
Why don’t I like the girl I see,
Mirror Mirror on the wall,
When will you leave me be,

Mirror Mirror on the wall,
Tell me who’s the biggest fool of all,
Mirror Mirror on the wall,
Why did you leave me to bawl,

Mirror Mirror what do you see,
Please tell me what you decree,
Mirror Mirror on the wall,
Am I the fairest of them all,

Mirror mirror why do they laugh,
Am I only a false half,
Mirror Mirror why do they stare,
Mirror mirror why do I care,

Mirror Mirror on the wall,
Who’s the ugliest of them all,
Mirror Mirror on the wall,
Who’s most damaged of them all,

Mirror mirror,
On the wall,
Lie to me,
Show me what I want to see,

Mirror Mirror,
May I see a little clearer,
On the wall,
Oh how I appal.

All that look my way,
Mirror what do you say,
You should only speak the truth,
You should only speak to sooth,

Mirror mirror why do you lie,
I know I asked, but please don’t make me cry,
Mirror mirror I whisper goodbye,
Mirror Mirror let me die..
The wall
Hard
Cold
Solid

A silent companion

Comfortable

The wall
Won't move
The wall
Won't disappear
The wall
Won't change
The wall
Won't break
The wall
Won't turn
Green
The wall
Won't turn
Blue

The wall
Supports the weight
The wall
Shelters
The wall
Calms
Blank
White
Bliss

Sleep
Shuts off everything
Else

And I am
At peace

Sleep
The Wall
And I
Mirror mirror on the wall please tell me that I have it all.

Mirror mirror on the wall help me look like a doll.

Mirror mirror on the wall tell me that he doesn't hit me at all.

Mirror mirror on the wall what just happened I cannot recall?

Mirror mirror on the wall he loves me it's just the alcohol.

Mirror mirror on the wall he doesn't love I am  a neanderthal.

Mirror mirror on the wall I must leave by nightfall.

Mirror mirror on the wall if people ask I just had a fall.

Mirror mirror on the wall hurry and call the cops before it's my last fall.

Mirror mirror on the wall the person looking back has no power at all.
Sophie Woods Feb 2014
Mirror mirror on the wall
Why must i be so tall and slim
Mirror mirror on the wall
I dont even go to the gym
Mirror mirror on the wall
Why do i look like waist
Mirror mirror on the wall
Im so shrunk and defaced
Mirror mirror on the wall
Why do i have a double chin
Mirror mirror on the wall
I just wanna grin
Mirror mirror on the wall
Why do you lie to my face
Mirror mirror on the wall
Making me displaced
Mirror mirror on the wall
Why do i have no friends
Mirror mirror on the wall
Im looking through your lens
Mirror mirror on the wall
Why do you say fairest of them all?
Mirror mirror your a ****** fibber
Why are you even hanging on my wall
Najwa Kareem Jun 2017
They know we are there but they wish not to see us and they wish not for us to see them.

A wall was intentionally placed behind them and in front of us.

Many words are spoken but from whose mouths they come from we do not know.

Is the wall a barrier or are their words?

To them it is not important that we see.

Sufficient is that we only hear.

They on the other hand have permitted themselves sight and sound.

The use of two senses and we one.

Is physical space made of air between them and us not enough of a distance?

Instead they thought to put up a wall.

A wall that upsets us.

A wall that humiliates us.

A wall that obscures us.

A wall that hurts us.

A wall that makes them forget about us.

With their wall, they have made us not a part of them.

We feel excluded.

We feel we are unimportant.

We are made to feel inferior.

If they were on our side of the wall,

Might they know then how we feel?

Might they know then what their wall has done?

By: Najwa Kareem

written on June 16, 2017
Notes
Marcus Well Mar 2018
(think Mexican Hat Dance:)

How tall? How tall? How tall?
Will Donald Trump build the wall?
The wall! The wall! The wall!
Will Mexico pay for it at all?
How high? How high? How high?
How high will they have to jump
To clear the wall and prove to us all
That they’ve pacified Donald Trump
(bump, bump)
To clear the wall and prove to us all
That they’ve pacified Donald Trump?

When you’re talking about immigration,
Whether merit based or chain migration,
According to Trump proclamation,
“Illegals, jump over the wall”!!
(NOT AT ALL!!)

How tall? How tall? How tall?
Can Donald Trump build the wall
When not a single Democrat
Is willing to fund it at all?
How long? How long? How long?
How long do we have to wait
To end this shutdown?
When they sit their butts down
To end this gridlock stalemate!!
Consider the workers who are not getting paid;
That is the part we most hate!!

To achieve our homeland protection,
Not just winning the 2020 election,
The Pelosi and Schumer connection
Should grant funding to give Trump OUR wall!!
Give Pelosi and Schumer
A kick in the bloomers
If they continue to stall!!

Written 1/15/19 by Marcus Well
(day 25 of the US Government Partial Shutdown)

(Who the hell is Marcus Well?  Those that know, please don’t tell)
Ranger Apr 2014
This glass wall...
It holds me back.
It stands in my way
It bars my path

This glass wall...
It has always been there
It has never chipped
It had never cracked

This glass wall...
Is to high to climb
It had no beginning
It has no ending

This glass wall...
Let's me see her
Let's me watch her
Let's me know her

This glass wall...
I have beat on
Searched for a way around
Tryed so hard to get through

This glass wall...
They pulled you away from it
Told you "you can't get to the other side"
They are wrong

This glass wall...
You cryed at
You told me you can't
You asked me to quit

This glass wall...
I will not stop striking it
I will not stop searching it
I will not give up

This glass wall...
It's almost time
It's almost posable
We are almost there

This glass wall...
Won't stop me from wanting you
Won't stop me from trying to get to you
Won't stop me from loving you

this glass wall cant...


....hold me back
Inspired by the anime short draw with me and the life I have lived and shared with some one very special through a glass wall
tina lombardo Oct 2018
Wall stands tall
Wall stands high
Wall stands alone
Wall painted with colours
Wall wants to come down but won't
Wall needs new wall
Wall runs for miles with out stopping for air
Wall not what you want but what you get to feel safe
Wall time heals from scars
Wall can be beautiful when need be
Wall can come down when the time is right
Wall stands tall
Wall stands high
Wall stands alone .
mike dm Apr 2016
i jus now saw
some dude
literally move
the apt. dumpster
so to paint
the wall white
behind it;

a wall, which,
will be completely ******* covered
by the dumpster,
after putting it back
against the newly painted white wall.

plus im pretty sure they're calling for rain..

that happened.

i actually witnessed that happen:
and, then, proceeded to
turn around
-awkwardly-
to go back inside my apt.,
with two full trashbags in hand.

... do you even realize what that means??

somebody actually gave him
that task: "go paint behind the dumpster."
aren't there other things to do?
or is this guy's boss that much of a ******
that he'd tell his employee,
"heyyy soo.... the wall.. behind the dumpster --
you know that wall? yaa
it needs to be painted.."

i mean, it'd be one thing
if, like,
the wall were
visible. and gross looking.
and people were calling
and complaining
about it,
like it was some eyesore
that offended their
otherwise
aesthetic enjoyment
and anticipation
of approaching
the scuffed forest green
apt. dumpster.

but it's not;
so it's not;
and so
they aren't.

or i'd get it if people routinely socialized
hanging around dumpsters,
like a water-coolor
or something;

buuut they don't;
so it's not
like a water-cooler..

... yaaa, unless i'm missing something here,
as far as i know,
there have been no
emerging cultural trends
whereby large groups of people
are routinely finding some
sorta symbolic resonance with
the object of a
dumpster;

it's gravitas
doesn't exactly
prompt frequent and
spontaneous dialogue
around it.

it isn't a known cultural artifact,
representing something meaningful and
bigger than ourselves, creating cohesion
and establishing an intangible commonality:

behold, our goodly trash-bearer!
great eater of things prolly totally not needed!
humble builder of plastic trash continents,
swirling vortex in the middle of the high seas!


nobody says that.

ever.

and nobody
is overstaying their visit
at a giant,
smelly
metal maw
which disposes things,
either unneeded or unwanted,
long enough
to suddenly notice that
the wall behind it
could maybe use a new paint job.

it's not exactly a cafe.
it's a ******* dumpster.

that man,
charged with the task of
painting the wall whiter
behind the dumpster,
ought to be
painting
on a canvass

which we all could see,
visible to the greater public.
and we would celebrate it, with him.
we could all gather
together, and toast
to his mind manifest, his art,
on display for all to see.

i wanna see THAT.
**** the white wall
behind the
******* dumpster.
that **** can wait.

what visions would surface?
how would he render it?

what would
he make?

i dunno

maybe
he'd paint
a surrealist depiction
of a man
charged with the task
of painting white
a wall behind a dumpster
as rain clouds
rolled in overhead,
spelling out

"i am Employer.
destroyer of worlds,
and vibes.
feel my ****** wrath."
Rebecca Gismondi Aug 2014
a wall has been erected in front of me
“new construction, do not pass”
right now it is made of bricks and mortar,
but in the past it was made of wood and bamboo
I have slaved away, day and night building this wall,
a barrier,
in front of me
because I would rather look at bricks than my own reflection
this wall protects me from my greatest fear, which just so happens to be myself
myself, particularly, in love
I spent months constructing this wall
slathering between the cracks all the food I haven’t eaten
painting on all the brick the words I should have said
and tacking pictures of myself in different positions of aching:
curled beneath blue sheets,
inhaling scents of a ratty sweater,
and so this wall is a reminder of who I become when I fall in love
and I have been walking around, behind this wall, with contempt
with ease
because I can laugh and engage and smile behind it
but no one falls in love with me
and I fall in love with no one
right?
until…
you
a six foot small framed high-octane energy bright spark sees me
he saw me
looked through me
past that wall
an anomaly
before I felt my bricks burning at the thought of another looking at me
and the mortar oozed out when a stranger’s arm wrapped around my waist and pulled me closer
and I boiled over and erupted
and I frantically built that wall right back up
stronger mortar, rougher brick
and continued along,
I have braved the inevitable
I was free from love
yes, finally
but you:
who forget words when I speak
who challenged me to a thumb war to feel my hands before my lips
who wants to make me smile above all else
you are a rarity,
you are air finally entering my lungs,
you see me
you’re chipping away at that wall so slowly
but I am so afraid
before, if someone showed me any sign of love I would leap into their arms
I yearned for warmth and space and heat and rush
I drank bottles of truth serum and I spilled it all until I was empty
this wall never existed
but now:
when you asked me when was the last time someone told me I was beautiful, I cried
and when you told me you wanted to know my past without judgment, I cried
and when you said how you fell asleep looking into my eyes and looked into them hours after yours were closed, I cried
and my chest keeps swelling and sinking and pushing
and it is because I feel as though I am so tainted that you shouldn’t want me
I feel so much; I am a walking hurricane
I breathe nothing but fire
I no longer see stars at night
because I want love more than anything
but I am so deathly terrified of it
this familiar coat of all feelings; a patchwork of combined thoughts
I’ve worn it so many times before that it has ripped in so many places
it’s lost its shape
so I pinned it to the wall
but you,
you stood on the other side of the wall
at a distance, where I kept you
and you took the smallest hammer
and began chiseling away at my brick
and I panicked
because you said I was beautiful
and you loved my eyes
and you see through me
but I stopped myself from building it back
you see through me,
past me,
I should let the rubble surrounding my feet be a reminder of my strength instead of a weakness,
a break,
demolish me
break me into pieces until I am surrounded by dust
you should see all of me
tear down the wall.
The wall, the wall, the wall
It has never stumbled, it will never fall,
The wall stands grand and makes you feel small,
The wall, the wall, the wall

They stand, they stand, they stand
Some stand on top of the wall,
Although they hold on by tooth and hand,
They stand, they stand, they stand,

Some fall, some fall, some fall
Some may fall off of the wall,
They crawl back, but cant get back on top,
And they realize they know nothing at all.
The wall, the wall, the wall
Shiv Pratap Pal Jan 2019
Wall, Wall, Walls, I love Walls
Let's build some more walls
Here wall, there wall
Everywhere wall wall

Existing walls are not enough
More walls are a necessity
Fools, I am not talking about walls of room
I Know, they are enough for you and me

Even if they are not, I don't care
House and homes are your private affairs
I do give regards to your freedom
I don't interfere with walls of your room

I am not going to shell out a penny
For your homes and rooms, honey
I have much more to think and do
I have to make much more walls

Walls on the open lands, walls on borders
It will save us from our enemies
It will save us from terrorist and drugs
Human traffickers too, only fear the walls

You morons, why don't you understand
It will save us from illegal immigrants
I mean the animals and birds of foreign lands
Entering in our country without proper visa

If you still feel, the walls are enough
Be assured, I will demolish them all
Then rebuild new magnificent walls
All walls will become a masterpiece.

We can opt for walls of iron and concrete
Even we can go for walls, made of pure steel
A new history of walls need to be written
Walls, walls everywhere, here wall, there wall

I will even try to build the wall between peoples
Wall between open hearts, Open minds
Wall between open thoughts and thinking
I vow to work for the walls, I love Walls
Lets Support Walls. Celebrate Walls.
1

I am a house, says Senlin, locked and darkened,
Sealed from the sun with wall and door and blind.
Summon me loudly, and you'll hear slow footsteps
Ring far and faint in the galleries of my mind.
You'll hear soft steps on an old and dusty stairway;
Peer darkly through some corner of a pane,
You'll see me with a faint light coming slowly,
Pausing above some gallery of the brain . . .

I am a city . . . In the blue light of evening
Wind wanders among my streets and makes them fair;
I am a room of rock . . . a maiden dances
Lifting her hands, tossing her golden hair.
She combs her hair, the room of rock is darkened,
She extends herself in me, and I am sleep.
It is my pride that starlight is above me;
I dream amid waves of air, my walls are deep.

I am a door . . . before me roils the darkness,
Behind me ring clear waves of sound and light.
Stand in the shadowy street outside, and listen-
The crying of violins assails the night . . .
My walls are deep, but the cries of music pierce them;
They shake with the sound of drums . . . yet it is strange
That I should know so little what means this music,
Hearing it always within me change and change.

Knock on the door,-and you shall have an answer.
Open the heavy walls to set me free,
And blow a horn to call me into the sunlight,-
And startled, then, what a strange thing you will see!
Nuns, murderers, and drunkards, saints and sinners,
Lover and dancing girl and sage and clown
Will laugh upon you, and you will find me nowhere.
I am a room, a house, a street, a town.

2

It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning
When the light drips through the shutters like the dew,
I arise, I face the sunrise,
And do the things my fathers learned to do.
Stars in the purple dusk above the rooftops
Pale in a saffron mist and seem to die,
And I myself on a swiftly tilting planet
Stand before a glass and tie my tie.

Vine leaves tap my window,
Dew-drops sing to the garden stones,
The robin chips in the chinaberry tree
Repeating three clear tones.

It is morning. I stand by the mirror
And tie my tie once more.
While waves far off in a pale rose twilight
Crash on a white sand shore.
I stand by a mirror and comb my hair:
How small and white my face!-
The green earth tilts through a sphere of air
And bathes in a flame of space.
There are houses hanging above the stars
And stars hung under a sea . . .
And a sun far off in a shell of silence
Dapples my walls for me . . .

It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning
Should I not pause in the light to remember God?
Upright and firm I stand on a star unstable,
He is immense and lonely as a cloud.
I will dedicate this moment before my mirror
To him alone, and for him I will comb my hair.
Accept these humble offerings, cloud of silence!
I will think of you as I descend the stair.

Vine leaves tap my window,
The snail-track shines on the stones,
Dew-drops flash from the chinaberry tree
Repeating two clear tones.

It is morning, I awake from a bed of silence,
Shining I rise from the starless waters of sleep.
The walls are about me still as in the evening,
I am the same, and the same name still I keep.
The earth revolves with me, yet makes no motion,
The stars pale silently in a coral sky.
In a whistling void I stand before my mirror,
Unconcerned, I tie my tie.

There are horses neighing on far-off hills
Tossing their long white manes,
And mountains flash in the rose-white dusk,
Their shoulders black with rains . . .

It is morning. I stand by the mirror
And surprise my soul once more;
The blue air rushes above my ceiling,
There are suns beneath my floor . . .

. . . It is morning, Senlin says, I ascend from darkness
And depart on the winds of space for I know not where,
My watch is wound, a key is in my pocket,
And the sky is darkened as I descend the stair.
There are shadows across the windows, clouds in heaven,
And a god among the stars; and I will go
Thinking of him as I might think of daybreak
And humming a tune I know . . .

Vine-leaves tap at the window,
Dew-drops sing to the garden stones,
The robin chirps in the chinaberry tree
Repeating three clear tones.

3

I walk to my work, says Senlin, along a street
Superbly hung in space.
I lift these mortal stones, and with my trowel
I tap them into place.
But is god, perhaps, a giant who ties his tie
Grimacing before a colossal glass of sky?

These stones are heavy, these stones decay,
These stones are wet with rain,
I build them into a wall today,
Tomorrow they fall again.

Does god arise from a chaos of starless sleep,
Rise from the dark and stretch his arms and yawn;
And drowsily look from the window at his garden;
And rejoice at the dewdrop sparkeling on his lawn?

Does he remember, suddenly, with amazement,
The yesterday he left in sleep,-his name,-
Or the glittering street superbly hung in wind
Along which, in the dusk, he slowly came?

I devise new patterns for laying stones
And build a stronger wall.
One drop of rain astonishes me
And I let my trowel fall.

The flashing of leaves delights my eyes,
Blue air delights my face;
I will dedicate this stone to god
And tap it into its place.

4

That woman-did she try to attract my attention?
Is it true I saw her smile and nod?
She turned her head and smiled . . . was it for me?
It is better to think of work or god.
The clouds pile coldly above the houses
Slow wind revolves the leaves:
It begins to rain, and the first long drops
Are slantingly blown from eaves.

But it is true she tried to attract my attention!
She pressed a rose to her chin and smiled.
Her hand was white by the richness of her hair,
Her eyes were those of a child.
It is true she looked at me as if she liked me.
And turned away, afraid to look too long!
She watched me out of the corners of her eyes;
And, tapping time with fingers, hummed a song.

. . . Nevertheless, I will think of work,
With a trowel in my hands;
Or the vague god who blows like clouds
Above these dripping lands . . .

But . . . is it sure she tried to attract my attention?
She leaned her elbow in a peculiar way
There in the crowded room . . . she touched my hand . . .
She must have known, and yet,-she let it stay.
Music of flesh! Music of root and sod!
Leaf touching leaf in the rain!
Impalpable clouds of red ascend,
Red clouds blow over my brain.

Did she await from me some sign of acceptance?
I smoothed my hair with a faltering hand.
I started a feeble smile, but the smile was frozen:
Perhaps, I thought, I misunderstood.
Is it to be conceived that I could attract her-
This dull and futile flesh attract such fire?
I,-with a trowel's dullness in hand and brain!-
Take on some godlike aspect, rouse desire?
Incredible! . . . delicious! . . . I will wear
A brighter color of tie, arranged with care,
I will delight in god as I comb my hair.

And the conquests of my bolder past return
Like strains of music, some lost tune
Recalled from youth and a happier time.
I take my sweetheart's arm in the dusk once more;
One more we climb

Up the forbidden stairway,
Under the flickering light, along the railing:
I catch her hand in the dark, we laugh once more,
I hear the rustle of silk, and follow swiftly,
And softly at last we close the door.

Yes, it is true that woman tried to attract me:
It is true she came out of time for me,
Came from the swirling and savage forest of earth,
The cruel eternity of the sea.
She parted the leaves of waves and rose from silence
Shining with secrets she did not know.
Music of dust! Music of web and web!
And I, bewildered, let her go.

I light my pipe. The flame is yellow,
Edged underneath with blue.
These thoughts are truer of god, perhaps,
Than thoughts of god are true.

5

It is noontime, Senlin says, and a street piano
Strikes sharply against the sunshine a harsh chord,
And the universe is suddenly agitated,
And pain to my heart goes glittering like a sword.
Do I imagine it? The dust is shaken,
The sunlight quivers, the brittle oak-leaves tremble.
The world, disturbed, conceals its agitation;
And I, too, will dissemble.

Yet it is sorrow has found my heart,
Sorrow for beauty, sorrow for death;
And pain twirls slowly among the trees.

The street-piano revolves its glittering music,
The sharp notes flash and dazzle and turn,
Memory's knives are in this sunlit silence,
They ripple and lazily burn.
The star on which my shadow falls is frightened,-
It does not move; my trowel taps a stone,
The sweet note wavers amid derisive music;
And I, in horror of sunlight, stand alone.

Do not recall my weakness, savage music!
Let the knives rest!
Impersonal, harsh, the music revolves and glitters,
And the notes like poniards pierce my breast.
And I remember the shadows of webs on stones,
And the sound or rain on withered grass,
And a sorrowful face that looked without illusions
At its image in the glass.

Do not recall my childhood, pitiless music!
The green blades flicker and gleam,
The red bee bends the clover, deeply humming;
In the blue sea above me lazily stream
Cloud upon thin-brown cloud, revolving, scattering;
The mulberry tree rakes heaven and drops its fruit;
Amazing sunlight sings in the opened vault
On dust and bones, and I am mute.

It is noon; the bells let fall soft flowers of sound.
They turn on the air, they shrink in the flare of noon.
It is night; and I lie alone, and watch through the window
The terrible ice-white emptiness of the moon.
Small bells, far off, spill jewels of sound like rain,
A long wind hurries them whirled and far,
A cloud creeps over the moon, my bed is darkened,
I hold my breath and watch a star.

Do not disturb my memories, heartless music!
I stand once more by a vine-dark moonlit wall,
The sound of my footsteps dies in a void of moonlight,
And I watch white jasmine fall.
Is it my heart that falls? Does earth itself
Drift, a white petal, down the sky?
One bell-note goes to the stars in the blue-white silence,
Solitary and mournful, a somnolent cry.

6

Death himself in the rain . . . death himself . . .
Death in the savage sunlight . . . skeletal death . . .
I hear the clack of his feet,
Clearly on stones, softly in dust;
He hurries among the trees
Whirling the leaves, tossing he hands from waves.
Listen! the immortal footsteps beat.

Death himself in the grass, death himself,
Gyrating invisibly in the sun,
Scatters the grass-blades, whips the wind,
Tears at boughs with malignant laughter:
On the long echoing air I hear him run.

Death himself in the dusk, gathering lilacs,
Breaking a white-fleshed bough,
Strewing purple on a cobwebbed lawn,
Dancing, dancing,
The long red sun-rays glancing
On flailing arms, skipping with hideous knees
Cavorting grotesque ecstasies:
I do not see him, but I see the lilacs fall,
I hear the scrape of knuckles against the wall,
The leaves are tossed and tremble where he plunges among them,
And I hear the sound of his breath,
Sharp and whistling, the rythm of death.

It is evening: the lights on a long street balance and sway.
In the purple ether they swing and silently sing,
The street is a gossamer swung in space,
And death himself in the wind comes dancing along it,
And the lights, like raindrops, tremble and swing.
Hurry, spider, and spread your glistening web,
For death approaches!
Hurry, rose, and open your heart to the bee,
For death approaches!
Maiden, let down your hair for the hands of your lover,
Comb it with moonlight and wreathe it with leaves,
For death approaches!

Death, huge in the star; small in the sand-grain;
Death himself in the rain,
Drawing the rain about him like a garment of jewels:
I hear the sound of his feet
On the stairs of the wind, in the sun,
In the forests of the sea . . .
Listen! the immortal footsteps beat!

7

It is noontime, Senlin says. The sky is brilliant
Above a green and dreaming hill.
I lay my trowel down. The pool is cloudless,
The grass, the wall, the peach-tree, all are still.

It appears to me that I am one with these:
A hill, upon whose back are a wall and trees.
It is noontime: all seems still
Upon this green and flowering hill.

Yet suddenly out of nowhere in the sky,
A cloud comes whirling, and flings
A lazily coiled vortex of shade on the hill.
It crosses the hill, and a bird in the peach-tree sings.
Amazing! Is there a change?
The hill seems somehow strange.
It is noontime. And in the tree
The leaves are delicately disturbed
Where the bird descends invisibly.
It is noontime. And in the pool
The sky is blue and cool.

Yet suddenly out of nowhere,
Something flings itself at the hill,
Tears with claws at the earth,
Lunges and hisses and softly recoils,
Crashing against the green.
The peach-tree braces itself, the pool is frightened,
The grass-blades quiver, the bird is still;
The wall silently struggles against the sunlight;
A terror stiffens the hill.
The trees turn rigidly, to face
Something that circles with slow pace:
The blue pool seems to shrink
From something that slides above its brink.
What struggle is this, ferocious and still-
What war in sunlight on this hill?
What is it creeping to dart
Like a knife-blade at my heart?

It is noontime, Senlin says, and all is tranquil:
The brilliant sky burns over a greenbright earth.
The peach-tree dreams in the sun, the wall is contented.
A bird in the peach-leaves, moving from sun to shadow,
Phrases again his unremembering mirth,
His lazily beautiful, foolish, mechanical mirth.

8

The pale blue gloom of evening comes
Among the phantom forests and walls
With a mournful and rythmic sound of drums.
My heart is disturbed with a sound of myriad throbbing,
Persuasive and sinister, near and far:
In the blue evening of my heart
I hear the thrum of the evening star.

My work is uncompleted; and yet I hurry,-
Hearing the whispered pulsing of those drums,-
To enter the luminous walls and woods of night.
It is the eternal mistress of the world
Who shakes these drums for my delight.
Listen! the drums of the leaves, the drums of the dust,
The delicious quivering of this air!

I will leave my work unfinished, and I will go
With ringing and certain step through the laughter of chaos
To the one small room in the void I know.
Yesterday it was there,-
Will I find it tonight once more when I climb the stair?
The drums of the street beat swift and soft:
In the blue evening of my heart
I hear the throb of the bridal star.
It weaves deliciously in my brain
A tyrannous melody of her:
Hands in sunlight, threads of rain
Against a weeping face that fades,
Snow on a blackened window-pane;
Fire, in a dusk of hair entangled;
Flesh, more delicate than fruit;
And a voice that searches quivering nerves
For a string to mute.

My life is uncompleted: and yet I hurry
Among the tinkling forests and walls of evening
To a certain fragrant room.
Who is it that dances there, to a beating of drums,
While stars on a grey sea bud and bloom?
She stands at the top of the stair,
With the lamplight on her hair.
I will walk through the snarling of streams of space
And climb the long steps carved from wind
And rise once more towards her face.
Listen! the drums of the drowsy trees
Beating our nuptial ecstasies!

Music spins from the heart of silence
And twirls me softly upon the air:
It takes my hand and whispers to me:
It draws the web of the moonlight down.
There are hands, it says, as cool as snow,
The hands of the Venus of the sea;
There are waves of sound in a mermaid-cave;-
Come-then-come with me!
The flesh of the sea-rose new and cool,
The wavering image of her who comes
At dusk by a blue sea-pool.

Whispers upon the haunted air-
Whisper of foam-white arm and thigh;
And a shower of delicate lights blown down
Fro the laughing sky! . . .
Music spins from a far-off room.
Do you remember,-it seems to say,-
The mouth that smiled, beneath your mouth,
And kissed you . . . yesterday?
It is your own flesh waits for you.
Come! you are incomplete! . . .
The drums of the universe once more
Morosely beat.
It is the harlot of the world
Who clashes the leaves like ghostly drums
And disturbs the solitude of my heart
As evening comes!

I leave my work once more and walk
Along a street that sways in the wind.
I leave these st
Alyssa Underwood Mar 2016
I

He did not wear his scarlet coat,
  For blood and wine are red,
And blood and wine were on his hands
  When they found him with the dead,
The poor dead woman whom he loved,
  And murdered in her bed.

He walked amongst the Trial Men
  In a suit of shabby grey;
A cricket cap was on his head,
  And his step seemed light and gay;
But I never saw a man who looked
  So wistfully at the day.

I never saw a man who looked
  With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
  Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every drifting cloud that went
  With sails of silver by.

I walked, with other souls in pain,
  Within another ring,
And was wondering if the man had done
  A great or little thing,
When a voice behind me whispered low,
  “That fellows got to swing.”

Dear Christ! the very prison walls
  Suddenly seemed to reel,
And the sky above my head became
  Like a casque of scorching steel;
And, though I was a soul in pain,
  My pain I could not feel.

I only knew what hunted thought
  Quickened his step, and why
He looked upon the garish day
  With such a wistful eye;
The man had killed the thing he loved
  And so he had to die.

Yet each man kills the thing he loves
  By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
  Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
  The brave man with a sword!

Some **** their love when they are young,
  And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
  Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
  The dead so soon grow cold.

Some love too little, some too long,
  Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,
  And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,
  Yet each man does not die.

He does not die a death of shame
  On a day of dark disgrace,
Nor have a noose about his neck,
  Nor a cloth upon his face,
Nor drop feet foremost through the floor
  Into an empty place

He does not sit with silent men
  Who watch him night and day;
Who watch him when he tries to weep,
  And when he tries to pray;
Who watch him lest himself should rob
  The prison of its prey.

He does not wake at dawn to see
  Dread figures throng his room,
The shivering Chaplain robed in white,
  The Sheriff stern with gloom,
And the Governor all in shiny black,
  With the yellow face of Doom.

He does not rise in piteous haste
  To put on convict-clothes,
While some coarse-mouthed Doctor gloats, and notes
  Each new and nerve-twitched pose,
******* a watch whose little ticks
  Are like horrible hammer-blows.

He does not know that sickening thirst
  That sands one’s throat, before
The hangman with his gardener’s gloves
  Slips through the padded door,
And binds one with three leathern thongs,
  That the throat may thirst no more.

He does not bend his head to hear
  The Burial Office read,
Nor, while the terror of his soul
  Tells him he is not dead,
Cross his own coffin, as he moves
  Into the hideous shed.

He does not stare upon the air
  Through a little roof of glass;
He does not pray with lips of clay
  For his agony to pass;
Nor feel upon his shuddering cheek
  The kiss of Caiaphas.


II

Six weeks our guardsman walked the yard,
  In a suit of shabby grey:
His cricket cap was on his head,
  And his step seemed light and gay,
But I never saw a man who looked
  So wistfully at the day.

I never saw a man who looked
  With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
  Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every wandering cloud that trailed
  Its raveled fleeces by.

He did not wring his hands, as do
  Those witless men who dare
To try to rear the changeling Hope
  In the cave of black Despair:
He only looked upon the sun,
  And drank the morning air.

He did not wring his hands nor weep,
  Nor did he peek or pine,
But he drank the air as though it held
  Some healthful anodyne;
With open mouth he drank the sun
  As though it had been wine!

And I and all the souls in pain,
  Who tramped the other ring,
Forgot if we ourselves had done
  A great or little thing,
And watched with gaze of dull amaze
  The man who had to swing.

And strange it was to see him pass
  With a step so light and gay,
And strange it was to see him look
  So wistfully at the day,
And strange it was to think that he
  Had such a debt to pay.

For oak and elm have pleasant leaves
  That in the spring-time shoot:
But grim to see is the gallows-tree,
  With its adder-bitten root,
And, green or dry, a man must die
  Before it bears its fruit!

The loftiest place is that seat of grace
  For which all worldlings try:
But who would stand in hempen band
  Upon a scaffold high,
And through a murderer’s collar take
  His last look at the sky?

It is sweet to dance to violins
  When Love and Life are fair:
To dance to flutes, to dance to lutes
  Is delicate and rare:
But it is not sweet with nimble feet
  To dance upon the air!

So with curious eyes and sick surmise
  We watched him day by day,
And wondered if each one of us
  Would end the self-same way,
For none can tell to what red Hell
  His sightless soul may stray.

At last the dead man walked no more
  Amongst the Trial Men,
And I knew that he was standing up
  In the black dock’s dreadful pen,
And that never would I see his face
  In God’s sweet world again.

Like two doomed ships that pass in storm
  We had crossed each other’s way:
But we made no sign, we said no word,
  We had no word to say;
For we did not meet in the holy night,
  But in the shameful day.

A prison wall was round us both,
  Two outcast men were we:
The world had ****** us from its heart,
  And God from out His care:
And the iron gin that waits for Sin
  Had caught us in its snare.


III

In Debtors’ Yard the stones are hard,
  And the dripping wall is high,
So it was there he took the air
  Beneath the leaden sky,
And by each side a Warder walked,
  For fear the man might die.

Or else he sat with those who watched
  His anguish night and day;
Who watched him when he rose to weep,
  And when he crouched to pray;
Who watched him lest himself should rob
  Their scaffold of its prey.

The Governor was strong upon
  The Regulations Act:
The Doctor said that Death was but
  A scientific fact:
And twice a day the Chaplain called
  And left a little tract.

And twice a day he smoked his pipe,
  And drank his quart of beer:
His soul was resolute, and held
  No hiding-place for fear;
He often said that he was glad
  The hangman’s hands were near.

But why he said so strange a thing
  No Warder dared to ask:
For he to whom a watcher’s doom
  Is given as his task,
Must set a lock upon his lips,
  And make his face a mask.

Or else he might be moved, and try
  To comfort or console:
And what should Human Pity do
  Pent up in Murderers’ Hole?
What word of grace in such a place
  Could help a brother’s soul?

With slouch and swing around the ring
  We trod the Fool’s Parade!
We did not care: we knew we were
  The Devil’s Own Brigade:
And shaven head and feet of lead
  Make a merry masquerade.

We tore the tarry rope to shreds
  With blunt and bleeding nails;
We rubbed the doors, and scrubbed the floors,
  And cleaned the shining rails:
And, rank by rank, we soaped the plank,
  And clattered with the pails.

We sewed the sacks, we broke the stones,
  We turned the dusty drill:
We banged the tins, and bawled the hymns,
  And sweated on the mill:
But in the heart of every man
  Terror was lying still.

So still it lay that every day
  Crawled like a ****-clogged wave:
And we forgot the bitter lot
  That waits for fool and knave,
Till once, as we tramped in from work,
  We passed an open grave.

With yawning mouth the yellow hole
  Gaped for a living thing;
The very mud cried out for blood
  To the thirsty asphalte ring:
And we knew that ere one dawn grew fair
  Some prisoner had to swing.

Right in we went, with soul intent
  On Death and Dread and Doom:
The hangman, with his little bag,
  Went shuffling through the gloom
And each man trembled as he crept
  Into his numbered tomb.

That night the empty corridors
  Were full of forms of Fear,
And up and down the iron town
  Stole feet we could not hear,
And through the bars that hide the stars
  White faces seemed to peer.

He lay as one who lies and dreams
  In a pleasant meadow-land,
The watcher watched him as he slept,
  And could not understand
How one could sleep so sweet a sleep
  With a hangman close at hand?

But there is no sleep when men must weep
  Who never yet have wept:
So we—the fool, the fraud, the knave—
  That endless vigil kept,
And through each brain on hands of pain
  Another’s terror crept.

Alas! it is a fearful thing
  To feel another’s guilt!
For, right within, the sword of Sin
  Pierced to its poisoned hilt,
And as molten lead were the tears we shed
  For the blood we had not spilt.

The Warders with their shoes of felt
  Crept by each padlocked door,
And peeped and saw, with eyes of awe,
  Grey figures on the floor,
And wondered why men knelt to pray
  Who never prayed before.

All through the night we knelt and prayed,
  Mad mourners of a corpse!
The troubled plumes of midnight were
  The plumes upon a hearse:
And bitter wine upon a sponge
  Was the savior of Remorse.

The **** crew, the red **** crew,
  But never came the day:
And crooked shape of Terror crouched,
  In the corners where we lay:
And each evil sprite that walks by night
  Before us seemed to play.

They glided past, they glided fast,
  Like travelers through a mist:
They mocked the moon in a rigadoon
  Of delicate turn and twist,
And with formal pace and loathsome grace
  The phantoms kept their tryst.

With mop and mow, we saw them go,
  Slim shadows hand in hand:
About, about, in ghostly rout
  They trod a saraband:
And the ****** grotesques made arabesques,
  Like the wind upon the sand!

With the pirouettes of marionettes,
  They tripped on pointed tread:
But with flutes of Fear they filled the ear,
  As their grisly masque they led,
And loud they sang, and long they sang,
  For they sang to wake the dead.

“Oho!” they cried, “The world is wide,
  But fettered limbs go lame!
And once, or twice, to throw the dice
  Is a gentlemanly game,
But he does not win who plays with Sin
  In the secret House of Shame.”

No things of air these antics were
  That frolicked with such glee:
To men whose lives were held in gyves,
  And whose feet might not go free,
Ah! wounds of Christ! they were living things,
  Most terrible to see.

Around, around, they waltzed and wound;
  Some wheeled in smirking pairs:
With the mincing step of demirep
  Some sidled up the stairs:
And with subtle sneer, and fawning leer,
  Each helped us at our prayers.

The morning wind began to moan,
  But still the night went on:
Through its giant loom the web of gloom
  Crept till each thread was spun:
And, as we prayed, we grew afraid
  Of the Justice of the Sun.

The moaning wind went wandering round
  The weeping prison-wall:
Till like a wheel of turning-steel
  We felt the minutes crawl:
O moaning wind! what had we done
  To have such a seneschal?

At last I saw the shadowed bars
  Like a lattice wrought in lead,
Move right across the whitewashed wall
  That faced my three-plank bed,
And I knew that somewhere in the world
  God’s dreadful dawn was red.

At six o’clock we cleaned our cells,
  At seven all was still,
But the sough and swing of a mighty wing
  The prison seemed to fill,
For the Lord of Death with icy breath
  Had entered in to ****.

He did not pass in purple pomp,
  Nor ride a moon-white steed.
Three yards of cord and a sliding board
  Are all the gallows’ need:
So with rope of shame the Herald came
  To do the secret deed.

We were as men who through a fen
  Of filthy darkness *****:
We did not dare to breathe a prayer,
  Or give our anguish scope:
Something was dead in each of us,
  And what was dead was Hope.

For Man’s grim Justice goes its way,
  And will not swerve aside:
It slays the weak, it slays the strong,
  It has a deadly stride:
With iron heel it slays the strong,
  The monstrous parricide!

We waited for the stroke of eight:
  Each tongue was thick with thirst:
For the stroke of eight is the stroke of Fate
  That makes a man accursed,
And Fate will use a running noose
  For the best man and the worst.

We had no other thing to do,
  Save to wait for the sign to come:
So, like things of stone in a valley lone,
  Quiet we sat and dumb:
But each man’s heart beat thick and quick
  Like a madman on a drum!

With sudden shock the prison-clock
  Smote on the shivering air,
And from all the gaol rose up a wail
  Of impotent despair,
Like the sound that frightened marshes hear
  From a ***** in his lair.

And as one sees most fearful things
  In the crystal of a dream,
We saw the greasy hempen rope
  Hooked to the blackened beam,
And heard the prayer the hangman’s snare
  Strangled into a scream.

And all the woe that moved him so
  That he gave that bitter cry,
And the wild regrets, and the ****** sweats,
  None knew so well as I:
For he who lives more lives than one
  More deaths than one must die.


IV

There is no chapel on the day
  On which they hang a man:
The Chaplain’s heart is far too sick,
  Or his face is far too wan,
Or there is that written in his eyes
  Which none should look upon.

So they kept us close till nigh on noon,
  And then they rang the bell,
And the Warders with their jingling keys
  Opened each listening cell,
And down the iron stair we tramped,
  Each from his separate Hell.

Out into God’s sweet air we went,
  But not in wonted way,
For this man’s face was white with fear,
  And that man’s face was grey,
And I never saw sad men who looked
  So wistfully at the day.

I never saw sad men who looked
  With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
  We prisoners called the sky,
And at every careless cloud that passed
  In happy freedom by.

But there were those amongst us all
  Who walked with downcast head,
And knew that, had each got his due,
  They should have died instead:
He had but killed a thing that lived
  Whilst they had killed the dead.

For he who sins a second time
  Wakes a dead soul to pain,
And draws it from its spotted shroud,
  And makes it bleed again,
And makes it bleed great gouts of blood
  And makes it bleed in vain!

Like ape or clown, in monstrous garb
  With crooked arrows starred,
Silently we went round and round
  The slippery asphalte yard;
Silently we went round and round,
  And no man spoke a word.

Silently we went round and round,
  And through each hollow mind
The memory of dreadful things
  Rushed like a dreadful wind,
And Horror stalked before each man,
  And terror crept behind.

The Warders strutted up and down,
  And kept their herd of brutes,
Their uniforms were ***** and span,
  And they wore their Sunday suits,
But we knew the work they had been at
  By the quicklime on their boots.

For where a grave had opened wide,
  There was no grave at all:
Only a stretch of mud and sand
  By the hideous prison-wall,
And a little heap of burning lime,
  That the man should have his pall.

For he has a pall, this wretched man,
  Such as few men can claim:
Deep down below a prison-yard,
  Naked for greater shame,
He lies, with fetters on each foot,
  Wrapt in a sheet of flame!

And all the while the burning lime
  Eats flesh and bone away,
It eats the brittle bone by night,
  And the soft flesh by the day,
It eats the flesh and bones by turns,
  But it eats the heart alway.

For three long years they will not sow
  Or root or seedling there:
For three long years the unblessed spot
  Will sterile be and bare,
And look upon the wondering sky
  With unreproachful stare.

They think a murderer’s heart would taint
  Each simple seed they sow.
It is not true! God’s kindly earth
  Is kindlier than men know,
And the red rose would but blow more red,
  The white rose whiter blow.

Out of his mouth a red, red rose!
  Out of his heart a white!
For who can say by what strange way,
  Christ brings his will to light,
Since the barren staff the pilgrim bore
  Bloomed in the great Pope’s sight?

But neither milk-white rose nor red
  May bloom in prison air;
The shard, the pebble, and the flint,
  Are what they give us there:
For flowers have been known to heal
  A common man’s despair.

So never will wine-red rose or white,
  Petal by petal, fall
On that stretch of mud and sand that lies
  By the hideous prison-wall,
To tell the men who ***** the yard
  That God’s Son died for all.

Yet though the hideous prison-wall
  Still hems him round and round,
And a spirit man not walk by night
  That is with fetters bound,
And a spirit may not weep that lies
  In such unholy ground,

He is at peace—this wretched man—
  At peace, or will be soon:
There is no thing to make him mad,
  Nor does Terror walk at noon,
For the lampless Earth in which he lies
  Has neither Sun nor Moon.

They hanged him as a beast is hanged:
  They did not even toll
A reguiem that might have brought
  Rest to his startled soul,
But hurriedly they took him out,
  And hid him in a hole.

They stripped him of his canvas clothes,
  And gave him to the flies;
They mocked the swollen purple throat
  And the stark and staring eyes:
And with laughter loud they heaped the shroud
  In which their convict lies.

The Chaplain would not kneel to pray
  By his dishonored grave:
Nor mark it with that blessed Cross
  That Christ for sinners gave,
Because the man was one of those
  Whom Christ came down to save.

Yet all is well; he has but passed
  To Life’s appointed bourne:
And alien tears will fill for him
  Pity’s long-broken urn,
For his mourner will be outcast men,
  And outcasts always mourn.


V

I know not whether Laws be right,
  Or whether Laws be wrong;
All that we know who lie in gaol
  Is that the wall is strong;
And that each day is like a year,
  A year whose days are long.

But this I know, that every Law
  That men have made for Man,
Since first Man took his brother’s life,
  And the sad world began,
But straws the wheat and saves the chaff
  With a most evil fan.

This too I know—and wise it were
  If each could know the same—
That every prison that men build
  Is built with bricks of shame,
And bound with bars lest Christ should see
  How men their brothers maim.

With bars they blur the gracious moon,
  And blind the goodly sun:
And they do well to hide their Hell,
  For in it things are done
That Son of God nor son of Man
  Ever should look upon!

The vilest deeds like poison weeds
  Bloom well in prison-air:
It is only what is good in Man
  That wastes and withers there:
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate,
  And the Warder is Despair

For they starve the little frightened child
  Till it weeps both night and day:
And they scourge the weak, and flog the fool,
  And gibe the old and grey,
And some grow mad, and all grow bad,
And none a word may say.

Each narrow cell in which we dwell
  Is foul and dark latrine,
And the fetid breath of living Death
  Chokes up each grated screen,
And all, but Lust, is turned to dust
  In Humanity’s machine.

The brackish water that we drink
  Creeps with a loathsome slime,
And the bitter bread they weigh in scales
  Is full of chalk and lime,
And Sleep will not lie down, but walks
  Wild-eyed and cries to Time.

But though lean Hunger and green Thirst
  Like asp with adder fight,
We have little care of prison fare,
  For what chills and kills outright
Is that every stone one lifts by day
  Becomes one’s heart by night.

With midnight always in one’s heart,
  And twilight in one’s cell,
We turn the crank, or tear the rope,
  Each in his separate Hell,
And the silence is more awful far
  Than the sound of a brazen bell.

And never a human voice comes near
  To speak a gentle word:
And the eye that watches through the door
  Is pitiless and hard:
And by all forgot, we rot and rot,
  With soul and body marred.

And thus we rust Life’s iron chain
  Degraded and alone:
And some men curse, and some men weep,
  And some men make no moan:
But God’s eternal Laws are kind
  And break the heart of stone.

And every human heart that breaks,
  In prison-cell or yard,
Is as that broken box that gave
  Its treasure to the Lord,
And filled the unclean *****’s house
  With the scent of costliest nard.

Ah! happy day they whose hearts can break
  And peace of pardon win!
How else may man make straight his plan
  And cleanse his soul from Sin?
How else but through a broken heart
  May Lord Christ enter in?

And he of the swollen purple throat.
  And the stark and staring eyes,
Waits for the holy hands that took
  The Thief to Paradise;
And a broken and a contrite heart
  The Lord will not despise.

The man in red who reads the Law
  Gave him three weeks of life,
Three little weeks in which to heal
  His soul of his soul’s strife,
And cleanse from every blot of blood
  The hand that held the knife.

And with tears of blood he cleansed the hand,
  The hand that held the steel:
For only blood can wipe out blood,
  And only tears can heal:
And the crimson stain that was of Cain
  Became Christ’s snow-white seal.


VI

In Reading gaol by Reading town
  There is a pit of shame,
And in it lies a wretched man
  Eaten by teeth of flame,
In burning winding-sheet he lies,
  And his grave has got no name.

And there, till Christ call forth the dead,
  In silence let him lie:
No need to waste the foolish tear,
  Or heave the windy sigh:
The man had killed the thing he loved,
  And so he had to die.

And all men **** the thing they love,
  By all let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
  Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
  The brave man with a sword!
The wall shall hold.



All who attack this wall will be a waste of time
To those who stand with the wall will be indestructible,
People who stand with the wall will be in their prime
People that attempt to harm the wall shall crumble.

Defend what you believe in
Never attack that which you are ignorance of,
Defend and you will be supplied with relief
Attack and the only thing supplied to you is interference.

The wall shall hold!
The wall will endure!
The wall shall consume!
This wall is your will to defend or crumble,
How strong is your Defense?
Jessica Katzki Feb 2012
I believe in the Western Wall, the rough stones that feel soft to the touch, and warm so many hearts, the vines that start at the top and fall into the cracks of the temple that once was whole.
Starting in Pre- K, I learned all about the basics of the Jewish people; the history, the culture, and the religion. The idea of it all coming to life felt out of reach. Originally, I was going to have to wait until the summer of sophomore year to visit the land I have learned about for many years. Yet I was in eighth grade when I first visited Israel with my class.
It wasn’t real to me until I boarded the El Al airplane that would bring me to the place that I had anticipated through pictures, descriptions, poems and ancestry. The trip moved fast; I constantly hiked and had fun with my classmates of nine years. The concluding days were where I would finally discover the answer to the most confusing part of Judaism to me—the Western Wall.
As I stood in front of the wall like so many had done before me, my prior confusion about why so many people cared about a single wall vanished. All around me people were dancing and singing, and as I got closer to the wall they grew blurry in my vision and eventually vanished (just used “vanished”, maybe use a different word?). All I could see was the wall that stood so tall above me. For the first time, I had no questions. My tears answered them all.
My teacher told me to choose just one rock to remember forever. They said to look at the wall standing in front of me and close my eyes. The rock you first see will be yours. My rock’s sides are straight but the middle looks like the thick white cream cheese craters of the moon.
    _
I cannot say that I fully grasped the meaning of the Western Wall until I returned for a second time this summer. As my feet guided me along steps I took just two years ago, I spotted the rock that was mine. As I looked into the crevasses, my mind drew a picture of my tears that came out just two years ago. I remembered the look in my face even though I could not see myself. I remember not being able to describe my cry and not being able to identify my tears from my friends’ that I embraced with. Our warm salty tears fell onto the limestone ground beneath our feet.
At that moment, I realized we Jews have something strong that cannot break. We pour out our hearts onto paper and push the bits of our heart into the hands of our people. We trust those who stuck their prayers into the Wall, because we are all one people. We are the Western Wall.

I believe in the Western Wall.
C J Baxter Feb 2015
“ Give me it all” said the old blurring wall,
as I struggled to think why not.
We seem to have ****** it again lads, call
another hour off and push on till it’s had.
“ Have it.” “Have wit.” “ Have it.” said the wall.
His voice couldn’t be mine, yet it was too close to call,
So I called out and asked for his name;
“ Its me” “ Its you”, we’re the all in wall.  

“ We’re the all in wall,
  We’re all in the wall,
  We’re the in, all wall
  In the wall, we’re in
  The wall we’re all in,
  The wall we’re in, all
  The we’re all in wall.”

Then I really hit the wall,
First with my hands, then my head.
So I decided that it was time,
and willed the couch into a bed.  
"Ahh sleep, carry me off,
I would like to rest before Aurora calls."
“ I could chatter till you fall asleep”,
                   said the old crackling walls.    

Gone, he goes, going mad.
“ I’m not going mad, Ive been there and back.
  I don’t want to go. I don’t have what I had.”
Gone, he goes, going mad.
“ Well maybe I’ll run. Then I won’t be going anywhere”.
Off he goes, gone, going mad.  

He runs through the old wall, from the bad to the bad.
freaky angel Jul 2015
I wish i was a fly in the wall
So that they wont bother to scrutinize every move i make
I wish i was a fly in the wall
Least people wont see me if i stumble and fall..
i wish i was a fly in the wall
least they would not know my smiles are fake
i wish i was a fly in the wall
For them not to discover theres a hole in my soul..
I wish i was just a fly in the wall
So that they wont be able to judge me which i really **** hate!
I wish i was just a fly in the wall
For them not to laugh at me when my heart starts to break..
I wish i was just a fly in the wall
least they wont notice when madness in me starts to call
I wish i was just a ******* fly in the wall
Because i wish those imbecile would give me a break!

And my heads starts spinning like a cannonball all ready to strike
I just wish they would stop bothering me and start to get a life!
And my heart starts blazing like a wildfire so abrupt
Shhhhh Shut your mouth up! please do not interrupt!
And my soul my lovely soul is starting to create a chaos inside me..
Thinking..
Pondering..
Ceasing the moment
Chasing the stars
Wondering..
How to end this ****** war
In the end i'll celebrate my glory
They are like a maggots now in my freaking memory..


                                                      ­                     +++>FreakyAngel
                                                  ­                          7/23/2015
#hate#frustrations#madness#glory

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