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Peter Tanner Jan 2015
Warmth
What a great feeling.
The same sensation of those sweet orange rays of the sun.
When the sun rises is brings warmth to all its searching beams touch.
Warmth is the subtle heat from a campfire.
When you and  friends are roasting mallows.
Warmth is not only physical
Is it also emotional
Warmth is when somebody is kind to you.
Like giving you a hug on a bad day.
Warmth may come from a significant other.
Maybe when they hold your hand
Maybe when they say the three magic words "I love you."
Warmth is also when you do the same kindness for others.
Not only will you be the warmth in someone else life.
You might add a little sunshine to yours as well in return.
This warmth physical and mental keeps us toasty
in this otherwise bleak and cold world.
May your day be full of sunshine and happiness.
I had to go free-verse on this one. There are words that rhyme with warmth but I couldn't think of any at the time. :)
i sit here, with one desire that opens to all others.
                      Warmth.
i just want your arms to encircle me,

just hold me till i melt,
and i am loose,
hold me till the tremors stop,
hug me till all my fears fade away,

let me rest upon your chest
and breathing in. and out.
over. and over.
as i embrace your warmth,
may the shivers stop.

Can we halt for just a moment,
and just breathe,
here,
together,
in this warmth filled bubble of protective silence,

in, out,
our chests rise and fall,
in sync,

And would you just hold this hand,
till you can give it to another

And i can't sleep tonight,
i can't find the  words to make this right.

Won't you stay? please don't fight.

I am not asking for what the others want,
just lay here, beside me, share with me your sunlight,
i'll  borrow some of your warmth, and tell me of your day of monotony,
long enough that my breath hiccups, long enough for you to pause.
to remember back to when,

she said, "its cold here"
it's always so cold,
its your warmth that left me,
and i struggle on.

all i wanted was to sit near you and feel your warmth,
and i don't want your touch,
that's not what i have come here for,
but i want the burning sensation of your warmth,
washing overme,
as the intimacy of your warmth melts me to the core,

why is it we can't hug without expecting more,
and i don't want you,
i just want you here beside me,
leg to leg,
as we melt together,
our desire to just breathe,
in ,out, in, out,
and hug me long till slumber grabs me strong.
Kodis Jan 2014
i have experienced the warmth
i have felt the breeze of love touch my life
but i am still young
and i still need the soothing sensation

i have been brought down by life
kicked and beaten to the curb
the warmth turns blue
like the sky, and the tears from my eyes

around the corner i can sense the warmth
curled up in a bed, underneath the covers
i can hear the warmth cry for me
but i can no longer be selfish

for i am still young
and like air, the warmth will circulate
bringing love to other places
and i must hold on

when i feel cold and selfish
false blankets and covers may bring me warmth
but i know the truth
a warmth will return to me, in time.
Revised - from 2002
Jordan Fischer Jun 2013
The icy dread of Old Man Winters breath
Eats through my flushed skin, causing the leaves to meet their scheduled deaths
He steals the Warmth that I once called "mine"
This Warmth, no longer mine, now sails through the air
That Warm air, carries on past my cold hands
Burning and forcing them to seek out a new Warmth
A new immediate Warmth that comes only from touching the skin of a Sinner
Embracing and becoming the Sinner, releases a powerful new Warmth,
A heat. That battles The Old Man himself.
Melting and christening the frozen world around me
Thawing the ground and blooming the trees
Changing the season, if only for a minute
As the beautiful heat begins to fade, I am left cold and fighting for warmth, in a quickly freezing puddle of shame.
H W Erellson Dec 2014
the tree rises in the dark
fine needles, like fingers
forming in the love of the womb
like hay hooved back into the stable in the spring
spring. summer. No one can imagine the warmth;
a different warmth. sun warmth. animal warmth.

Curled up in winter, we nestle into a different warmth.
we huddle together like a litter of mammals for heat
in the nights of the storm
we feel Gods watching us
with fiery anger
and flowing loves
we see the streetlights like pathetic fires
sprawled out across the valleys
where the mist sets in the day and the sky consumes at dusk

the house is haunted
but we shake the old bones' hands,
we sing and dance and shout,
red in the face,
red in the blood, the heart,
we give the ghosts flesh so they may sit with us,
so we may love and cherish and laugh

so we may sleep safely wrapped around one anothers limbs
the great sprawl of humanity
awake again for the touch
of winter warmth.
Merry Christmas 2014 everybody.
L Meyer Oct 2013
My feet to ground, bound faithfully,
as my breath to air,
or your touch to mine, its warmth
a comfort in chilled moments,
in the tepid nature of nakedness,
its weight upon our bones.

Your crooked mouth and funny bones
carry you delicately, faithfully
our worries live out back, stripped naked,
their nagging cries lost to cold air
while we laugh in these moments
and revel in our contented warmth.

On days without you, without warmth
I carry your smile within my bones
and wait patiently for the moment
of your return, my faithful
heart singing your melody to the air,
carried briefly, then lost to silent nakedness.

As the season turns, the trees stand naked
their bare fingers reaching for warmth
the leaves lost, rot into young, winter air
the smell seeps slowly into my bones
months will pass as they wait faithfully
for spring to break the frost in melted moments.

Our patience will yield to the awaited moment
when limbs can stride in nakedness
the sun never failing to renew the faith
that even the most bitter of cold will succumb to warmth
we will lie in the grass, your bones by my bones
and spill our happiness into clean air.

There are times you spend putting on airs
pretending you are someone else in a moment,
but your façade will never convince my bones
for they know you at your most naked
with nothing but our love for warmth,
so I sing the prayer of us that holds my faith.

Your bones can speak without air.
Their whispers faithful in fleeting moments,
my naked soul forever craving your warmth.
Tate Morgan Jul 2015
A collection of thoughts and prayers for our friends their families and the whole of humanity. Written by 76
voices from around the world.

The biggest star shines, proudly announced he arrived
My lord Jesus Christ was born to witness the truth
He granted identities to all of us, lost and unknown
Taught us love, peace and harmony, while forgiving all
A. Amos - United States

An ancient mission, a veiled plan
The Son of God, the son of man
A virgins wonder, a humble birth
The King of heaven is born to earth
Adanette - United States

Winter creeps in as fall fades to an end
frost coats the ground and snow begins to drift
tis' the time of year
Christmas is near.
Alicia Schroeder - United States

Let peace on earth begin at home
And spread to friends far and near
Bringing together all those we love
"It's the most wonderful time of the year.
Ana Sophia - Canada

Little excitement triggering at night
What Santa will bring for me this night
Little wish of mine; do listen my lord
Let Santa bring this time happiness for all...
Anne - India

Egg nog, holly, and Christmas wreaths
Pointsettia's white and bright red leaves
Fat, jolly Santa and Jesus' birth
A bright star arises and alights the Earth
Anne - United States

Adorable boy wiping the blur window pane with his poky hands,
and have a wish that santa claus will bring joy through this window,
Gracefully chanting jingle bells, he became santa for his parents,
so santa given the happiness from this side of window
Anshul's Vision - India

Dreamy hot chocolate kisses
steamy snowflake sprinkled wishes
lists of who's been naughty or nice
blend together this wintry spice.
April -United States

We have no jingles or Santa Clause
We have no snow
Still we have spirit of Christmas
Love and hope
Avinash - India

Christmas in Australia,
Sun, summer heat, Christmas outside
Backyards, and Barb-B-ques
Yule tides under the stars
Barb - Australia

Soft Smells of frankincense.
pine needles of fresh scent of bright Christmas Trees
Frosted windowpanes Magical time of the year
with children playing in the snow
Benita - United States

The season of love and joy is upon us
Sunshine or snowfall, no matter the weather
Smiles and laughter, and good cheer among us
When friends and family gather together
Brian - United States

The count down starts
for the best gift ever received
let peace reign in your hearts
as you wait to unwrap it.
Cassie - Kenya

Time is right, the time is near Christmas will soon be here.
Bells will ring and folks will sing "Oh holy Night all is bright
Children will wait with anticipation for Santa to come
Hearts will be warm, and love will abound Christmas is here.
Cheryl Davis - United States

He is the gift.
Jesus Christ,
He can have our burdens lifted,
By the gift of Christ.
C. Lee Battaglia - Unites States

Wind has licked the poor trees clean
All brown and bare in desolation
All except the evergreen
Soon to be sold as decoration
C. Rose - United States

The snow flakes dance in the wind
Shining lights like a magical dream
For those holding on to promises
To find in these times their wishes.
Dayran - Malaysia

Flash floods of snow replace once august plains of paper white
Mystic rivers freeze over as December lets her true colors shine
Incandescent light spreads throughout the ethereal winter night
As chariot of Christmas comes to life for yet another fiery ride
Doorman Dan - United States

A Merry Christmas poem
Always brings me Advent Joy
As we laud the Christ Child
The Birthday of the King
Douglas Raymond Rose - United States

Shattered crystals float to the ground
Stillness lay upon sweet earth
Warmed by angels silent sound
Jesus love bless yuletide hearths
E.Noodle - United States

To the poor and sick this year
I wish a bit of Christmas cheer
From the homeless and forlorn
Stable where a child was born
Fabian G. Franklin - United States

Christmas shines shimmering bright.
Stars spotlight a dance with the snow.
To welcome a merry season with cheer and light.
Bringing peace, joy and warmth for all to know
Fran Marie - United States

Snowflake kisses, full of holly wishes
peaceful rejoices bestowed upon fellow man
warmth of hope abiding a Joyeux Noel,
& muchly good cheer throughout the coming year
Frieda - United States

Lights shimmer,bells jingle on Christmas Tree
Half asleep eyes waiting for Saint Nick
Straight from the Pole wrapped with love & care
The gifts arrived our homes with a conjuring trick!
Frozen Eyes - India

The night before Christmas is known to be magical
With snowflakes in the air and Santa in the fireplace
And a smile plastered on our child's face
When the morning comes, all the magic will be done
Haley Wilson - Canada

Distance keeps us far apart,
Despite the cheer within our hearts.
The Spirits of Yule sing far and wide,
Let their songs brighten our minds.
Hime no Yuki - United States

Stuff your face, there's more to come
Before the games, the laughter and fun
in lively repose we'll mark the feast
With music and song and family treats
IanJohn63 - United kingdom

This reminds us of the true spirit
of the season.
It is much more than the material dreams dancing in our head
peace and love are the real reason
Jacob - United States

Unpack socks,yes this year is dying.
No child on this day coming should be crying.
I would be lying if I said Christmas isn't exciting.
All joy and glee,wouldn't you agree?
John - England

When children dream each year of Christmas,
Whispers from river and mountain pass --
Touching each language, corner, and part,
Wishing this year's dreams unwrap each heart.
K.L.Goode - Canada

Family visits,
where strangers find each other.
Long lost smiles reborn,
to sister and to brother.
Kusa Da Shin Avira - United States

Shining great star from heaven into hearts
Intimate wooden barn with manger in place
Celebrate the birth of Christianity and Jesus
Who died to keep humanity sin-free and safe
Lady Ann Graham-Gilreath - United States

We danced the year's temporary rhythm
Hitting the high or low steps to each tone
Like black and white in a composition
Let's find forte in harmony made
Laury Hitch - Ghana

The festival of lights is near
"Happy Hanukah" a wish we will hear
Every sundown, one candle more
A wish for peace in our hearts will endure
Lydia Shutter - United States

Bright patterned paper parcels waiting
with ribbons gold, green and red
while children peaceful dreaming sleeping
of the stockings hanging on their bed.
Mad Englishman (Clive) - United Kingdom

Drifting droplets over Christmas Tree
Spreading white foam of cracking snow,
Santa stood beside distributing to all free
****** Mary blessed divinity from above.
M.A. Rathore - India

Son of God, salvation of man
At last unto the earth is brought--
Who will remember, indeed who can
Unless final Ipod or Bratz is bought?
Mark Teague - United states

Thoughts toward the poor, sick or dying
Yet another year passes without some knowing
Of Christmas cheer, frolics for them too annoying
All symbolism meant only for those who are growing
Martin - Ireland

The gift of love.
The gift of peace.
The gift of happiness
May all these be yours at Christmas
MBUYISA - South Africa

To one and all I would grant a gift,
blessings for the holiday season.
Hearts overfilled with a joyful lift
from the angels bright holy beacon.
Michael Greenway - United States

In this season of Christmas
Through the eyes of the child
We look up and do believe
In Peace and Mercy mild
Momzilla - United States

Better than men than me,
Make their own mark
on world
and modern history
Moriarty Mesa - United States

Red and green dress our doorsteps
as our holiday dreams of
smiles and laughter, friends and family
fill our hearts with warmth and love
Ms Jewel - United States

O heart, receive Him! "There is no room in the inn."
May that cease to be our case.
May our blessed Savior be most welcome
in our most holy place.
Nautili - United States

Flakes of snow have come to remind,
Regrets, sorrow should be left behind
Prayers, hopes n joy to everyone's mind,
Family come together for dinner and wine.
Nitesh Poojari - India

The rhythmic snow cascades and falls,
Its beauty overshadows the polar air,
And welcomes the Christmas season,
In a glorious dance the waltz …
Nisa - United States

Christmas morning, early, dark, silence abounds
Coffee in hand, watching the deer on the lawn
Waiting for the family, and their rising sounds
Is there anything more peaceful than Christmas dawn?
NoelHC - Canada

Writing out a list, while sitting in my room
Christmas is approaching everyone soon
Decorating my beautiful green tree
Fairy on top, presents underneath
Noodlebumble"Sye" - Scotland

The wheel of joyful tidings on my mind.
We celebrate love and the gift of life
Our hearts rid of hate and squalor
As we dance to the sounds of Christmas
Norbert Dwayne Weweh - Ireland

We came under the inspiration of poem
To celebrate you, often nobly, is your season come?
Delighted hands trenchant: you reign!
Creeping towards the Bethlehem to be born again.
Onyia-ota, Kingsley C. - Nigeria

The problem with his beard
when the child isn't looking
is the rustle that is heard
when he opens up the stocking
Pete Langley - United kingdom

A fire in the heart as angels sing
Young and old caroling sweet and clear
Wishes for love, and Peace on earth
Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year
Phibby Veneble - United States

Where the cold bites and snow may fall
there is always a lesson of beauty within for us all
hold the hand out, next to your own
see the unity of the season,that brings us home
Poppy Ruth Silver - United kindom

Let the tolling bells bring peace on Earth
Be the only fire, your yule-log's warmth
The only red, the cheer of holly
The only fallen … a snowflake's folly
Pryde Foltz - Canada

Excesses of the season have commenced
Remember those beyond your fence.
Beyond the reunions,parties and the food
Find in in your heart to do some good.
(Rachelle) Mara Lin - Philippines - China - UnitedStates

As we celebrate in feast this Christmas Day
may you heal our land and the sick
for your touch of love strengthen the weak
a perfect gift for Christmas Eve
Racquil - Philippines

To each in season warmed at the hearth
Soft carols play as we serenade by the fire
The little babe come of a ****** birth
We come to offer blessings of your desire
Realmwriter -United States

This Christmas cold with winter chill,
snow flows free upon the hill,
within the home, warmth from the hearth
parents give love and children laugh.
Richard Allen Beevor - Cyprus

Star of Bethlehem, snow in the air;
red suit, chimney soot, Santa beware.
The stars all sing from high above
and Christmas wraps my heart with love.
Richard Williams - United States

The warmth and love of those amassed
Gathered 'round the family tree
Brings cherished tales of Christmas past
And gifts us with sweet memory
Rita L. Sev - United States

There shone warm light on a cold night
with the angels over head
Keep watch along with the Wise-men
over this blessed child's bed
Ron - United States

Sharing the joys of sharing
sparkling how life meant to give
receiving the blessings of each day
hallmarking the key role of sharing and giving
Roy Mark Azanza Corrales - Philippines

Stockings hung,carols sung
Tinsel on the tree
Don't forget to thank the one
"Twas born in Galilee
Samuel Dickens - United States

The poinsettia alone in a darkened room
Faithfully again begins to bloom
No particular rhyme or reason
Just a beautiful reminder of Christmas season
Sharon L.H. Kelly - United States

A sunny celebration under a winter sun
never put up a tree, no presents
yet holiday spirit excites, brings fun
amidst cake, tales and dear ones: lovely time spent
Sindu - India

I found myself following the Christmas Star
To Bethlehem not too near or too far
Throughout the dessert I roamed
To meet the Christ Child at the Stable Home
SmittyJas - United States

Hoist the glass to men we once knew
those of us who passed on before
The moments shared with precious few
whose souls we knew in times of yore
Tate Morgan - United States

A feathered mess of ****** bird,
Let's feast the corpse no room for third,
Dear pudding flame cause acid nose,
Let's run it off St. Nick's repose.
Thomas - Ireland

Hope is born on Christmas Day
Bow our heads give thanks as we pray
Peace to family and all our friends
Peace to those across all lands
Tina Kline - Unites States

Another year has come to pass...
With many an opportunity missed...
Yearly resolve comes around so fast..
preceded by yuletide bliss
Timothy Woodfin - United States


Spirits or Christmases past,look on those who celebrate today
With the celebrants of Christmases to come, in life's circular way
We think of those who've past on gone, tell of times past we did enjoy
Knowing someday the child will talk of us, whose engrossed in his new toy..
Tomas O Carthaigh -Ireland

Remember Jesus love of mankind
As we celebrate the holiday
With family and friends
Spreading cheer and love to all
(Tootsie Harvey Novels) Valerie L Harvey - United States

Our lord was born into flesh and bone,
dazzling star above his manger shone,
came to pay our debt though vastly great,
that we may enter the pearly gates.
Valormore De Plume - United States

Dry sands in this winter season
Lonely may seem at heart we rejoice
Hiding vibrant happiness for some reasons
Life in this dome, still we enjoy
Willyam Pax - Saudi Arabia /Phillipines

With smiles all on the children's faces
old folks prepare stockings for the fireplace
Churches singing Amazing Grace
preparing his birthing place
Wordman - United States

"Lovebirds dance with Christmas song
Divine message make them happy
Children clatter ding **** ****
Christmas made them quite sappy"
Zainul - Bangladesh

From our family to yours please try to be good to one another this year. The Cafe is a refuge for us all to hang out, share our lives and dream

Merry Christmas Everyone !!!

Tate
Can a thought or feeling be larger than a universe? Love is the only trait that is worth remembering because it is meant to be given away selflessly. The recipient is as happy to receive it as you were to give it! To my friends those of you whom I hold dear If you'd like to be added to this years Canon message me. I will do my best to add you to this poem.
Nathaniel Owen Jun 2014
The warmth
Weight
Of another body
It's a very pleasant feeling

Knowing that body is
Alive
Breathing
Thinking, always thinking

But a person none the less.
Whether there for love
Lust? Maybe
Or possibly Coincidence

Regardless it's Supple
comforting
Soothing
Warm, always warm

The craving for this
Feeling
Or maybe desire
It's bearable, but not pleasant

I'm alone
Quiet
Cold
Alone, so alone..

Wanting
Craving
Even Striving FOR
This Pleasant Feeling..

Warmth
Just warmth
Thinking, still thinking
Always wanting, warmth..
little dark girl with
kind eyes
when it comes time to
use the knife
I won't flinch and
i won't blame
you,
as I drive along the shore alone
as the palms wave,
the ugly heavy palms,
as the living does not arrive
as the dead do not leave,
i won't blame you,
instead
i will remember the kisses
our lips raw with love
and how you gave me
everything you had
and how I
offered you what was left of
me,
and I will remember your small room
the feel of you
the light in the window
your records
your books
our morning coffee
our noons our nights
our bodies spilled together
sleeping
the tiny flowing currents
immediate and forever
your leg my leg
your arm my arm
your smile and the warmth
of you
who made me laugh
again.
little dark girl with kind eyes
you have no
knife. the knife is
mine and i won't use it
yet.
Firzaana Mohamed Jan 2015
Shivering to the cold
Still no effort in search of warmth
Why?
Is there anything like warmth anymore...
It's just cold,
Blue Flakes Surrounded,
Piercing,
Etching,
The velvet box,
The one that holds my heart captive,
safe.

-fir.m
x'D It is a cold night.
Tamara Fraser Nov 2016
A warmth I can’t equate

to anything that

blossomed and I could touch as real

in my life to date.

Watching an ocean dance at twilight,

shifting and settling into myself;

a return home

after a long retreat.

Filled as much as one can,

living in a partly broken glass.



A warmth I can’t equate,

that smile that kept the streetlights,

still humming on their own,

late at night.

An absolute joy,

to see me,

that kept the sands still and made

the waves unafraid to keep crashing on.

The light brightening settling eyes,

on me,

like the happiest moment

of any day,

is when I’m right there,

walking along your way.

A warmth I can’t equate,

settled side by side

wrapped in fresh air and

twinkling planets high above,

breathing down a clear night,

on souls forever fixed

in an achingly sweet moment;

watching paths cross,

almost collide,

with words of love and loyalty,

grace, beauty, adoration, bliss,

transfixed on the glimmering promise

of single coloured roses

as gifts

for a sweet girl

you say

and a whimsical romanticism not dead.



A warmth I can’t equate,

how unearthly beautiful

you let me feel

in your eyes;

love professed on empty beaches,

showered attention on a

long-time lonely girl

you melted and folded

into a goddess.

Love professed

for a patched-up

lady singing melodies,

and holding herself together

with decisions scorching her back,

confused nettles of feelings and

obligations, allowances,

grievances and sadness

bearing a weight on her slender shoulders;

She’s a creature holding aloft all the

wonders and hearts of decisions left to face.



A warmth I can’t equate,

as I am

the protagonist always

failing to make the right decision,

lost and redeemed and burdened

in every instalment;

no one has made me feel as wondrous

and special,

in all the times I’ve had lovers sit before me.

But this protagonist,

has not had the greatest

trove of romances, nor the heart

to carry much more fears;

pieces are given away,

in every extended touch and heartbeat,

so please beware,

what’s left.



A warmth I can’t equate,

right now, lost in every state,

but hope I can at least reciprocate,

in some way after healing has mended

and stitched

and time has played it’s course to warm cold feet.

This lady is afraid,

of how quickly you might have fallen,

for all her wise, sad songs.

A sweet, unsettling fantasy made reality.



But she knows.

Of this warmth.

No one can really equate.
Tommy Johnson Dec 2013
You can hear the voices of our peers being silenced, ignored, shunned and distorted.
Staggering out of their bedroom doorways to the street corner to score a dime bag.
Bright, insightful millennials freezing in search of warmth from something to believe in that will encourage them to look forward to see another day.
Where our economy has made financial prudence clear when talking about education, yet price tags of university tuition's skyrocket.
The refused, the ones with hope but no money or scholarships; tread the streets with the echoes of electro house pulsing in their skulls.
Those who strip themselves down and shred their own morals to scraps just to find themselves and to see their own limitations.
Searching for answers to the unknown, to ascertain what they are, who they are and why.
Timid in high school, pushed along with nothing and no one to put their creative vigor into.
The squeakiest wheels that were never even considered to be given a good greasing.
Faculties giving them lethargic hellos on the first day of school, bestowing celebrated goodbyes to them on graduation day, diplomas in hand.
Now are the ones slumped over in a lackadaisical position contemplating how they can afford an education.
They work eight to ten at seven twenty five an hour Monday to Friday; and weekends staying in as not to blow their earnings.
Those who commute to university and balance a job with it, I applaud you.
The bewilderment of adulthood, the overabundance of pressure and responsibility.
Awakened from nightmares of lost opportunities, missed trains and lost contacts.
To step out of bed and splash water onto a severely distressed face and staring into a mirror with a despairing look.
Then hoping a bus to Garfield to bring back weight for all the embryonic smokers not yet at the point of make or break, just save up enough to pave my own way.
Gazing at the town on a roof top, chugging down the tenth…no…twelfth beer of the night wondering how this all happened.
Wild sensations of kissing an attractive stranger, the rush of touching on things never felt, tasting pleasures only the lucky have known.
The passionate, yet dissolute yearning for that ever eluding ******* adrenaline. Pounding, Pounding, Pounding until the culmination of energy has come.
Flip sided to those dizzying, tear jerking thoughts of suicide, annihilation of ones being, the contradictions of their faith in themselves and the people around them.
Unexplainable waves of anxiety crashing onto the shore of a diminutive island of optimism
Striving to look past the panic, the gloominess and fury that may or may not be present. But to remain composed and press forward to what awaits them.
Coffee keeps them going. Cup after cup, late night cramming every bit they can; into their caffeine driven psyches until the indisputable crash and failure.
Packs and packs of menthol cigarettes to calm their rattling nerves but at the same time killing them slowly. Their lives will seem shorter than the time it took to finish one bogey when death is near.
Marijuana induced ventures to run down burger shacks, laughing hysterical in the car ride, eyes heavy with a most ridiculous elastic grin extending from ear to ear. While inside millions of thoughts and realizations of consciously simple speculations and troubles become clear and unproblematic. So the joy is mirrored outside in.
LSD trips in Petruska dancing and singing in the rain! Making music, making love; playing pretend and creating art. Becoming a family while kicking back under the warmth of an illuminated tree on a cool fall night.
MDMA streaming through the body, everything is as it should be
Beautiful, lovely to touch, wondrous to stroke, marvelous to move.
To contact and connect, converse and converge with the dwelling desire to share what you feel with everyone for it would be selfish and unpleasant to keep it in.
Mushrooms oh the emotional overflow I need not say more but ****.
Then there are over the counter candies, Oxycontin, ******, Adderall and Xanax, painkillers and antidepressants. Ups, downs, side ways and backwards.
Selling addiction and dependency legally to kids. Making heroine, ******* and speed easily obtainable to them. Changing the names and giving out prescriptions so the parents can feel like they're actually helping their children but are subconsciously making it easier on themselves because they cannot handle the way their offsprings actually are. Some parents a feel it is the only way, I wish it wasn't so. Becoming zombies, mindless addicts before they even start to mature into puberty. I've seen it, firsthand front row.
Oh, the monotonous, mundane rituals and agendas of our lives. School, work, sleep eat, the sluggish schedules and repetitions of yesterday's conversations and redundancy of itineraries we had plotted months prior.
Same people, the constant faces of boredom that groan in apathy and hold the fear of complacency.
We talk about how hum drum out lives have become and what we could to put some color in our world but don’t.
We speak of how unfair the system is but ultimately confuse ourselves and everyone else due to lack or organization and dedication so nothing is changed.
We speak of breath taking women we want to share ****** fantasies with but can’t even muster enough courage to send a trivial friend request.
Texting away for hours trying to court those who now occupy our minds and possess our hearts hoping they may allow us to acquire their attention and affection. Calling them only to receive futile dial tones and know we are being evaded.
Weeping on and on for seemingly endless time frames of a dilapidated relationship that was so strained that a miniscule breeze could cause it to collapse but still clinging to every memory as if they were vital hieroglyphics depicting your very essence.
Brilliant theories blurted out in a drunken stupor.
Ingenious hypothesis shrouded in marijuana smoked out room.
Remembrance of friends long gone.
The marines, the navy.
The casualties of drug addiction.
The conquerors or their afflictions.
The scholars.
The insane locked away on the flight deck never to be seen again.
Teenage mothers unsure of themselves, abandoned by their families for they believe that they brought fictional shame upon the family’s name. The fate of the child is unclear but the mother’s everlasting love shines through any obscurities in its way.
Dear mother of the new born winter’s moon may the aura of life protect you and your baby.
The father gone without a trace.
He will never know his daughter.
And it will haunt him forever.
Parents bringing up their kids with values and morals, The Holy Bible, mantras and meditation, the Holy Quran, The Bhagavad Gita, and Upanishads. Islamic anecdotes and Jewish parables.
The names all different
The message the same
The stories unlike
Goals equivalent
Faith
Kabala, Scientology and Wicca
Amish and Mormons
All separate paths that intertwine and runoff each other then pool into the plateau of eternal life.
But do we have faith in our country, our government?
They do not have faith in us. Cameras on every street corner, FBI agents stalking social media, recordings of our personal lives and police brutality. 4th amendment where have you gone?
We say farewell to Oresko the last veteran of the last great war. And revisit the Arab spring, Al-Assad’s soldiers opening fire on innocent protesters, one hundred fifteen thousand lay dead. Bin laden dead, Hussein hanged, Gaddafi receiving every ounce of his comeuppance. War, terrorism, the fear of being attacked or is it an excuse to secure our nation's investments across the sea? Throwing trillions of dollars to keep the ****** machine cranking away, taxes, pensions, credit scores, insurance and annuities all cogs in the convoluted contraptions plight.
My dear friend contemplates this every night laying in bed, fetal position; the anxiety if having to be a part of this.
Falling apart on the inside but on the outside, an Adonis, *******, Casanova wanna be. Who worshiped the almighty dollar, gripping it so tightly until it made change, drank until he had his fill falling face first into the snow. The guy who lead on legions of clueless girls wearing their hearts on their sleeves not knowing he had a girlfriend the entire time. Arranging secret meetings in hidden gardens, streaking into the early morning. Driving to Ewing in his yellow Mustang to woo a sado masochistic girl. The chains and whips do nothing to him he is already numbed by the thrill. Then he comes home, lays in bed until one, with no job and having people pay for his meals.
He knows what he does and who he is wrong. He recites and regurgitates excuses endlessly. He cries because he knows he is weak, he knows he must fix himself. I sit on the edge of myself with my fingers crossed hoping maybe, maybe he will set himself straight.
My chum who can talk his way out of any confrontation and into a woman’s *******. Multitudes of amorous affairs in backrooms, backseats, front rows of movies theaters. Selfish, boastful and ignorant, yet woman fling themselves at him like catapulted boulders over a medieval battle field just to say hello. These girls blind to see what going on, for their eyes were taken by low self esteem. A need to be accepted, to feel wanted even only for fifteen minutes. Poor self image, daddy issues, anorexic razor blade slicing sirens screaming on about counted calories and social status. Their uncontrollable mental breakdowns and emotional collapse. Their uncles who ***** them, their parents who split up and confusing their definition of love and loyalty for the rest of their lives. Broken homes, domestic abuse and raised voices, sending jolts of fright into the young girl’s fragile minds. I send my sorrows to you ladies, to see such beautiful creatures suffer then be used and thrown away with the ****** that was just ****** deep into their *****.
Then I see women and men of marvelous stature, romantic in the streets holding everyone and everything in high regards. Finding beauty in anything and anyone. Enjoying every second as if the rapture was over head eating exotic foods from unheard of countries and cultures. Bouncing to the sound of whimsical , reverb ricochets and sense stimulating music. Huffing inspiration to create something out of thin air. Dancing to retired jazz and swing albums as if no time had past since their conception. Wearing bold colors and patterns, thrifty leather shoes or suede.
Dawning pre-owned blazers because why spend hundreds of dollars on new clothes just to look good but feel uncomfortable with a hole in your pocket. Dressing up but dressing down, so class yet urban I love it, chinos, pea coats and flannels so simple but chic.
At night they go to underground dens, sweaty bodies, loud music and freedom. Expressive manifestations glowing fueled with MDMA and other substances to further their enjoyment of the dark glorious occasion. Kandi kids sporting colorful bracelets, not watches for time is of no concern to them, they have all eternity they know that.
Going to book stores, coffee shops just to have some peace of mind and a moment of silence to themselves so that can weave the tapestry of imaginative innovation. Writing their own versions of the same story, endless doors of perception, reading news papers and taking it with a grain of salt. Watching the news on TV with a hand full of salt. Searching for the real story so they can know if the world they all live in is actually safe.
She who made her own way breaking hearts, rolling blunts and making deals. The flower child of the modern age, left the rainy days in search of radiant sunshine, idealistic. Reality was subjective, purple dyed hair, multicolored sweater with sandals on her feet. A ten inch bowl with bud from California packed in tightly. Coming from Dumont to Bergenfeild then on to Philly to Mount Vernon. Off to Astoria and the Heights. Now to Sweden laying in the grassy plains below the mountains. Good for you my friend whom I have loved, may fortunes of unsullied joy come to you and all you meet.
Since you’ve left I have encountered drunken burly firemen just trying to have a good time. Pounding down Pabst Blue Ribbon as if it were water; as if it were good tasting beer. But heroes none the less.
EMT's, young eighteen years old high school graduates, saving lives reviving people who are a mere inch close to death.
Sport stars getting scholarships thanks to their superior skills and strength.
Striking beauty school students who are into making the people of this world a little bit more beautiful on the outside.
All these people, successful, doing things. Departing to their desired destinations. I see inside them, they carry baggage, loneliness and insecurities. I can feel their guilt slowing them down. All have their loads but it’s the way they carry them that shows who they really are. And to me their all gems.
Not far in Paterson I watch the junkies limping across busy winding street, perusing a severely needed fix. “Diesel!” they shout beneath flickering streetlights, asking for spare change and if bold enough a ride to some shady sketchy place. I give them a dollar and politely decline. They’ll die without it. Vomiting up bile and blood, twitches and shivers are all you feel when it’s not in you. They cannot stop, they need help. Why not help them instead of “assisting” those who are homosexual? Cleansing so they can be granted entry to the kingdom of God. Looking down on people who have found love and understanding and a deep attraction to others who just so happen to share alike genitals.
Narrow minded uproars about the spread of AIDS, nonsense! The puritanical onslaught of those who want nothing more than the rest of us, love. "Gay", "****", "******", "queer", how about "kind", "funny", "genuine human being"? The right to be married and divorced should be an option for everyone to enjoy. The strains and hardships of matrimony are yours if you want them. If you don’t agree don’t hate or harm just allow them to be peacefully. Same goes for anything for that matter, Jehovah's going door to door, Mormons from Burbank. New ideas are never a bad thing, they’re not a waste of time. On average you have about eighty years to mull over your options.
Some people don’t live long enough to do so, cancer is rampant, blood diseases, ****** diseases, natural disasters coming right out of left field and blindsiding the innocent bystanders of both hemispheres. Some go through life handicapped, autism is apparent these days. Schizophrenia, Asperburgers, ADD and ADHD. Some lose their golden memories of their many valuable years walking down Alzheimer's Lane, not being able to remember whatever transpired only a few moments ago but revisiting gold nuggets from from fifty-some-odd years ago with ease. Some go through life delusional or bipolar. Some can't even sleep at night but they still carry on. And if assistance is needed it is our job as a race to help our brothers and sisters, no one deserves to be excluded from the gala of life. Or be denied by society and pumped with brightly colored pills from doctors promising a cure but prescribing a crutch.
Finding solace in sincerity.
The serendipity of it all hasn’t been uncovered and that keeps me going.
“Radiate boundless love towards the entire world above, below and across. Unhindered without ill will without enmity.” Oh Buddha the truth as it ever was.
Who is he who keeps these thoughts from the conscious minds of the population?
Who is it that distracts us from the humbling beauty and overwhelming devastation of this place of existence we’re in?
It’s they who do under the table parlor trick behind our backs.
Those who broadcast mind numbing so called reality TV shows without an underlying value or meaning.
Those who produce music, proclaiming extravagance to be the end all be all gluttonous goal we all should aim to achieve.
And those who turn noble causes into money making scams and defile pure ideas.
And of course those who give false promises of easily obtained  bright futures, those who don’t care, those who steal, ****, curse, bad mouth and lie. But still manage to get elected into positions that more or less decide out fates. Monsters, demons, banshees howling inconsequential worries and leaving us deaf to hear the real issues.
The
Nat Lipstadt Dec 2015
Time: 7:30 pm
Temp.: 68F

~~~
overlooking the runways,
festooned by
accidental heavenly whimsy,
or humanistic whimsical inten-sity,
all the the planes and trucks are flashing
electrifying speckles, of eclectically synced
red and green

it is not my holiday,
but no matter,
like every New Yorker this day,
I am happily celebrating its
double U,
unique, unusual

"record breaking warmth"

yes, the Fahrenheit is outtasight, and by the dawn of
early eve~night,
the Centigrade is spiraling in reverse retrograde,
as the temp eases on down, just below seventy degrees,
on this dewinterized twenty fourth day of
December, two nought and fifteen

traffic is light, the terminal, an unbusy, slim shadow of itself,
the maddening crowds gone, now all are among
the dearly departed and either/or, the newly arrived

so composition of the observational, brings cheer and smiles to my faith,
(I mean my face),
the crowning quietude of clear skies, the absence of street smart
city  bustle and hustle,
the languid atmosphere at the gates,
(where seldom is heard an encouraging word)#
makes me reconsider the true meaning of
the au courant phraseology of this day

"record breaking warmth"

for there is indeed
a calm invisible warmth suffusing all tonite,
chests glowing from fireplaces within,
contentment chamber containers in both hearth and heart,
and I am thinking
miracle,
about all the human warmth
on this celebrated evening,
holy night

indeed,
it is breaking records of
recorded human fusion,
the united commonality of millions warming
his and her stories world-over,
that your personal poet is
warming to record
# but not tonight, as I am
unbelievably,
upgraded!
Show me your fiery
yellows, blues, greens
and orange. Reveal
to me your layers
reaching for my fingers
as they trace circles
on your skin.

I need your warmth.
I need to taste it.
I need to have it.

Show me your beautiful
burning eyes and make me
shiver with your heat.
Let it radiate off your skin
and into my own.

I need your warmth.
I need to rub it.
I need it to be mine.

Show me! I beg you
on my hands and knees
as I send sweet caresses
down your outline. Show me
the meaning of a
flaming arrow and how
the pain will hurt and
the only relief will be
your warmth.
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.
‘Tis your pennies that make me pound,
Like a shepherd mourning his fallen hound ,
Such is the death of my drunken pride ,
That makes winter , a poet’s bride .

‘Tis your comfort , I wish to skin,
And the game of chance , that scripted your win,
Such is the shine of a tanner’s hide,
That make’s winter , a poet’s bride .

‘Twas your charity that made me wait,
On the doorsteps of your divine’s hate ,
Such are the Churches I laid aside ,
To make winter, the Poet’s bride .

Realization Strikes

I can’t rhyme my way to the kingdom of warmth
But I can roam the streets ,
Like I always did ,
In search of warmth

And Roam I did

I roamed that Street ,
Where the City pretends to be what its not .
I roamed those Hearts who call that Street,
Home of their Christmas thought .
I roamed it all ,
Till the fairy lights were there to help me see ,
But Alas ,
I found no warmth where they promised it would always be ,

But Instead ,

Not Far away from the echoes of the city making merry .
I found an abandoned cemetery,
And in the Sea of unmarked graves,
I heard the voices of forgotten braves;
And So,
I learnt the art , Of braving the Chill,
Without a survivor’s iron will  .
I learnt to sleep without a care ,
And immune I became to winter’s nightmare .
Its written from the perspective of the homeless sand destitute of my City - Kolkata. One can find references to You can references to Park Street ( The so called Party Hub for Christmas Freaks )  and the  Park Street Cemetery nearby that lies abandoned and unnoticed .
Harriet Shea Oct 2019
Midnight Power

Midnight, power escapes
from bowels of the universe
soaring, surrounding, wounding,
no laughter enlightens.

Lanced, damage begins,
like a swirling staircase,
ripping away from reality,
ending in another place
and time..

Energy flowing, with broken
promises surging forward,
completing life's triangle..

Silent words have no meaning,
power traps each moonlight
a night with sparkle and fame,
a fresh awakening, plunging
with understanding..

Point your finger in the other
direction, it is powered
with energy shooting toward
the heavens, taking in charge
every living soul, our maker
takes us home..
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Space

Space filled with wonder, where we
Search the universe for answers
there are none, not yet, where we
have established space stations, they
multiply, finding life underground of
Mars, the red planet, escaping death,
they find a new way of life..

Searching for other worlds for a sign
of extraterrestrials, we find, through
time travel, many dimensions, life
years apart, we now establish more
about God, and his creations, searching,
finding, accepting, we move on into the
mysteries of the universe...

Space is the ace of the deck, highest
you can find, where knowledge is
only one step away from our
accomplishments, a score much too
high for betterment....Space, vast,
filled with life. specks, dust from
heaven.

We shall continue to send out ships
to other worlds, finding more and
more answers, while we may of over
looked the true depth of our belief.....

The heavens will continue when we
are gone, answers will be sought,
solving many question unknown,
space, our true destination, has no
beginning, no end, life a mystery
of mysteries that shall go on till the
end of time...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Without Warmth Of Love

Without the warmth of love
I would close my eyes forever;
darkness would cloud each thought,
never know what life was about,
without love light.

Without the warmth of a smile, why
would I want to smile; it's worth
a lifetime to find a diamond,
one who knows the warmth of
life, the sparkle of love..

Without the warmth of a gentle
touch, how could I live a normal
life, when the freshness of the breeze
no longer exists..

Without the warmth of loving
words, life would be a lonely place,
where silence, like an Island, only
touched by a quiet whisper.

Without the warmth of a kiss
why should my lips whisper
words of love, when a kiss,
cannot find a home, a place
to rest desire..

Without the warmth of my love,
heavenly light would not exist,
only emptiness of a heart living
a life alone...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~''

Passion

Passion falls outside
my door. each time
I smell the flowers..

The passion of life, never
stops when a breeze
of love flows through
my hair, sent from God.

Passion grows, desire
living on, warm touch
of life devouring richness,
renewing, surrendering. a
Opal of life, black with fire..

Passion for love, desire, sweet
desire, food for the heart, the reason
to live life to the fullest.st.t.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Listen To My Songs

Listen to my songs my love,
there sung from the very
heart of me...

Your the one that makes
me sing you're the one
that makes me smile,
you're the reason for all
I do..

Listen to my songs of
love, they flow like
raindrops from the sky..

Listen to each heartbeat,
each beat is for you my
love, like beating drums,
wildly flowing across
the mountain pine..

Listen carefully my love,
you may hear the echoing
of my haunting songs, but
you can't see the love I hold
for you..
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Must I

Must the light stop shining
now that you have gone?
Must my life stop and pause
a second, to realize part
of me has melted away?

Must the glow of life fade,
when each day is a new,
must there only be one
heart beating now, when
two I've heard for so long?

Must the candlelight of love
dim forever, without another
flame to light my way?

Must the freshness of each
summer rain, have no breeze
to chase away the darkened
clouds?

Must the darkness turn
darker around me, when
dreams have disappeared,
leaving only shadows
of doubt?

Must the silence make
me weep, and the shade
of summertime bring
regrets?

Must I keep remembering
your smiles, kisses, sweet
embrace in the night of no
more tomorrows?

Must I walk alone among
the weeping willow, watch
the stream of life stop
flowing the other way?

Must I lay my head down
under the oak of life's
force, and surrender
myself to my master?

Must I give up, and give
into the pain I carry,
the tears I shed in vain,
when time is now running
out to hold you once more?

Must I believe that you
will return, when I know
it will never be, you have
been reborn into the masters
kingdom, leaving me all alone
my love..
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Love Is Forever

Love is forever peaceful,
never letting go, a touch of
heaven, flowing free.

Love is forever growing
among all nationalities,
it lives within all of us..

Love is a forever thing,
never letting go, flowing
through time..

love is not forced,
it's free, need is holding
on, not free. but love lives
within each soul..

Love is a lasting
thing that brightens
every heart..

Love. power of the
the universe, it multiplies
over and over again,
living forever.

By DerenaBree
© 2019 DerenaBree (All rights reserved)
Wide Eyes Jun 2014
Come spring, she leaped across the grassy dune,
Beaming with sheer joy as she hummed a halcyon tune.
Her beauteous almond eyes- the biggest, the brightest.
A bonnie spotted doe in her warm, homely forest

Come summer, by her gushing little lake she played.
When upon a solitary, pensive buck her eyes she laid.
Eyes met across the smiling lake; too soon gazes parted.
While his eyes curiously lingered, hers wandered on ahead.

Come monsoon, he adored her eyes, her gilded coat, her bushy tail.
The passionate warmth in her eyes with affection made him frail.
Yet, she went on with her blissful life- devoid of any care.
Oblivious of the buck who always stopped to stare.

Come winter, by his side chattering happily she grazed.
Soon, his feelings faded; by almond eyes no longer crazed.
Like currents in the water, apart they drifted and drifted.
New lake. Nonchalant silence. No words were said.

Come fall, she found that he still leaped through her mind.
The emotion she once scoffed in her heart now enshrined.
Eyes met across the smiling lake; too soon gazes parted.
While her dull eyes wistfully lingered, his wandered on ahead.
Johnny Overseas May 2014
Everyday I wake up,
thinking sleeping seconds take up all the space up
in a mind that wont shut up!
So don't get up, don't stand up,
for sure don't put your hands up.
I got so many heavy feelings I wont ever touch the ceiling.
But I throw the blanket of me,
all the shaking and the tossing
lost me seconds and it threatens that by end of the sentence,
with the dot a tock will deaden all the world here of this presence.

Ya I guess that you could say I'm afraid of death,
and that by the time I get to hell there wont be anything scary left,
so I take aim and shoot at life like it's the wild wild west,
I count on chaos, okay, I don't live for the blessed.

Get me out of this feeling, my head is messed.
Get me out of this feeling, my head is messed.

Oh, get yourself into some sunshine,
relax in the feeling unwind,
let the warmth settle inside.
It's alright, it's alright.
Put your dukes down, love. There's no fight.
Relax in the feeling unwind,
let the warmth settle inside.
It's alright, it's alright.

I gotta say I'm feelin' pretty dark here tonight,
but she's dark and she's pretty,
so I guess it could be alright!
Maybe she can replace this feeling that always makes me wanna fight.
I bite lightning, spight right wings with shocking mockings
that got me walking away from any kind of kinder light
Tell me to bare some arms I might!
But then I take a second and remember all the reasons it is that I come back again and fight.

Ya I guess that you could say I'm afraid of death,
I take aim and shoot at life like it's the wild wild west,
so by the time I get to hell there wont be anything scary left,
I count on chaos, okay, I don't live for the blessed.

Get me out of this feeling, my head is messed.
Get me out of this feeling, my head is messed.

Oh, get yourself into some sunshine,
relax in the feeling unwind,
let the warmth settle inside.
It's alright, it's alright.
Put your dukes down, love. There's no fight.
Relax in the feeling unwind,
let the warmth settle inside.
It's alright, it's alright.

Imagine what it is you could do,
if everybody in your life was in support of you,
and were the wind up on which you flew
wouldn't you do all the things that you imagined you could do?

Imagine what it is you could do,
if everybody in your life was in support of you,
and were the wind up on which you flew.
Wouldn't you do all of the things that life inspired you to do?

Imagine what it is you could do,
if everybody in your life was in support of you,
and were the wind up on which you flew.
Wouldn't you do all the things that you imagined you could do?

Oh, imagine what it is they could do
If all your friends and family were supported by you,
and you were the wind upon which they flew.
You'd be a little scared to imagine them without you. Wouldn't you?

Oh, get yourself into some sunshine,
relax in the feeling unwind,
let the warmth settle inside.
It's alright, it's alright.
Put your dukes down, love. There's no fight.
Relax in the feeling unwind,
let the warmth settle inside.
It's alright, it's alright.

Oh, imagine what it is they could do
If all your friends and family were supported by you,
and you were the wind upon which they flew.
You'd be a little scared to imagine them without you. Wouldn't you?
Always fight, don't be too much of a fighter. Living feels wrong, but dead you cannot be much writer.

A pen isn't mightier than those double edged swords. Luckily the type I'm thinking about still only appear in words.
liz Sep 2018
i sit and stare out across my lap
the dips and valleys, where your head once rested softly
skin like pillowed silk against a stubbled cheek.
maybe so, the mountains of love
that brought you cresting unto me
have now begun their descent into these valleys,
skin of silken sadness like an unbroken surface
trembling at the cold of winter snows, frostbite
between our lips, chilly disappointment.
and in the valley yet lies your warmth;
i captured you in kisses and mumbled goodbyes,
sleepy eyes that cried hello,
i love you my dear & never leave.
i curl my body into folds,
conserving warmth as i grow smaller
ever unready to be alone again.
and though i ration this warmth,
take pieces of our love to feed the flame of forgotten desire
we slowly crumble into the scree
at the bottom of this mountain we built,
towering high above our hopes and dreams
aimless as the life beneath gathered like dust.
Harriet Shea Aug 2019
Midnight Power

Midnight, power escapes
from bowels of the universe
soaring, surrounding, wounding,
no laughter enlightens.

Lanced, damage begins,
like a swirling staircase,
ripping away from reality,
ending in another place
and time..

Energy flowing, with broken
promises surging forward,
completing life's triangle..

Silent words have no meaning,
power traps each moonlight
night with sparkle and fame,
a fresh awakening, plunging
with understanding..

Point your finger in the other
direction, it is powered
with energy shooting toward
the heavens, taking in charge
every living soul, our maker
takes us home..
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Space


Space filled with wonder, where we
search the universe for answers
there are none, not yet, where we
have establish space stations, they
multiply, finding life under ground of
Mars, the red planet, escaping death,
they find a new way of life..

Searching for other worlds for a sign
of extraterrestrials, we find, through
time travel, many dimensions, life
years apart, we now establish more
about God, and his creations, searching,
finding, accepting, we move on into the
mysteries of the universe...

Space is the ace of the deck,highest
you can find, where knowledge is
only one step away from our
accomplishments, a score much to
high for betterment....Space, vast,
filled with life. specks, dust from
heaven..

We shall continue to send out ships
to other worlds,finding more and
more answers, while we may of over
looked the true depth of our belief.....

The heavens will continue when we
are gone, answers will be sought,
solving many question unknown,
space, our true destination, has no
beginning, no end, life a mystery
of mysteries that shall go on till the
end of time...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Without Warmth Of Love

Without warmth of love
I would close my eyes forever;
darkness would cloud each thought,
never knowing what life was about,
without loves light..

Without warmth of a smile, why
would I want to smile; it's worth
a life time to find a diamond,
one who knows the warmth of
life, the sparkle of love..

Without warmth of a gentle
touch, how could I live a normal
life, when freshness of the breeze
no longer exists..

Without the warmth of loving
words, life would be a lonely place,
where silence, like a Island, only
touched by a quiet whisper..

Without the warmth of a kiss
why should my lips whisper
words of love, when a kiss,
cannot find a home, a place
to rest desire..

Without the warmth of my love,
heavenly light would not exist,
only emptiness of a heart living
a life alone...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~''

Passion

Passion falls outside
my door. each time
I smell the flowers..

Passion of life, never
stops when a breeze
of love flows through
my hair, sent from God.

Passion grows, desire
living on, warm touch
of life devouring richness,
renewing, surrendering. a
Opal of life, black with fire..

Passion for love, desire, sweet
desire, food for the heart, reason 
to live life to the fullest..
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Listen To My Songs

Listen to my songs my love,
there sung from the very
heart of me...

Your the one that makes
me sing, your the one
that makes me smile,
your the reason for all
I do..

Listen to my songs of 
love, they flow like
raindrops from the sky..

Listen to each heart beat,
each beat is for you my 
love, like beating drums,
wildly flowing across
the mountain pine..

Listen carefully my love,
you may hear the echoing
of my haunting songs, but
you can't see the love I hold
for you..
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Must I

Must the light stop shining
now that you have gone?
Must my life stop and pause
a second, to realize part
of me has melted away?

Must the glow of life fade,
when each day is a new,
must there only be one
heart beating now, when
two I've heard for so long?

Must the candle light of love
dim forever, without another
flame to light my way?

Must the freshness of each
summer rain, have no breeze
to chase away the darkened
clouds?

Must the darkness turn
darker around me, when
dreams have disappeared,
leaving only shadows
of doubt?

Must the silence make
me weep, and the shade
of summertime bring
regrets?

Must I keep remembering
your smiles, kisses,sweet
embrace in the night of no
more tomorrows?

Must I walk alone among
the weeping willow, watch
the stream of life stop
flowing the other way?

Must I lay my head down 
under the oak of life's
force, and surrender
myself to my master?

Must I give up, and give
into the pain I carry,
the tears I shed in vain,
when time is now running
out to hold you once more?

Must I believe that you
will return, when I know
it will never be, you have
been reborn into the masters
kingdom, leaving me all alone
my love..
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Love Is Forever

Love is forever peaceful,
never letting go, a touch of
heaven, flowing free.

Love is forever growing
among all nationalities,
it lives within all of us..

Love is a forever thing,
never letting go, flowing
through time..

love is not forced,
it's free, need is holding
on, not free. but love lives
within each soul..

Love is a lasting
thing that brightens
every heart..

Love. a power of the
universe, it multiplies
over and over again,
living forever..


By DerenaBree
© 2019DerenaBree (All rights reserved)
September Roses Jul 2018
Sit back and relax
Feel the waves wash over your back
In the melting sun
Looking at the clouds reflecting all the pinks and blues
Over the blooming hill, echoing white noise of chirps and crickets

Listen to the trickling of the slow water over the smooth rocks
Feel a warm wind brush your face
With your eyes closed
Enjoying the radiating warmth
And the soothing crackling of a log fire

Or sit and admire the shimmering spray
Of a waterfall smoothly crashing into the water of a sky kissed lake
Sunlight dancing through the vapor
Rainbows jumping through every droplet

Listen to the pitter patter of the rain, against a tin roof
Inside a warm cabin
Drifting to sleep
Soon to wake to the song bird's chorus
And the blissful sun

Bask in it
And relax
Maggie Lane Nov 2012
Looking back, I think I knew she wasn’t going to wake up that night. Maybe I thought she wouldn’t wake up ever.
CHAPTER 1: ENDLESS SLEEP
It seemed to me that the fact that movies and stories make it appear as if sad things can only and will only occur during rain and thunder was just stupid. The weather has no affect on the events, right? But I was wrong. On Tuesday, April 18th, I began to realize this apparently idiotic movie ploy might have an inkling of truth buried in it.
That day, the kids had teased me again, but to be totally honest, I didn’t mind it then and I don’t mind it now. It had begun to rain when I was halfway down 17th street. I had immediately removed my shoes and socks, and stuffed them into my bag, which was already overflowing with scraps of paper and books. Most of the books had been for free time reading, and are currently lying in a heap in my room at Dad's, where they will remain unread until I decide to forget that awful, horrible, tragic day.
I ran all the way to our apartment, but went the long way and danced and twirled as my un-zippered jacked flapped uselessly behind me. My lungs burned white-hot, but my body was freezing, a feeling I still to this day enjoy. By the time I had reached the alleyway behind the crumbling yet comforting building, I was soaked through, and I loved it. I decided to go around back so Martin would have no excuse to yell at me in that foul, ill-tempered way that made the skin underneath his chin jiggle. I had started towards the rusted door when I saw her. Of course, it hadn't been her. She had been inside, where she alway waited for me to get home. But I had felt on that day as protective of her as she always insisted upon being with me.
I grasped the icy handle and slipped inside, the warmth of the building suffocating rather than comforting me. To this day, I prefer being cold, because it clears the mind, and warmth clouds it, like the foul demon that lures you into the endless sleep that tried to take my mother that day. I climbed the steps; the sudden noise of my feet on the stairs was like a rock sliding under the water, breaking the calm.
I remember how the climb up the stairs that day had seemed especially long. But mostly, I remember how the apartment smelled when I finally reached the top and slid the key into the lock, turning it noisily. I remember the smell, and how the instant it hit my nose I knew that I wasn’t to expect the warm, gentle mother I came to expect most days, but that I was going to get the harsh, drunken version, when she had been smoking and on drugs.
Resignedly, I called, “MOM! I'm home from school!” only then I hadn't known that I would never get an answer. I dumped my soaking bag unceremoniously in the hall, and it hit the floor with a wet thump, splattering mud on the tiles. When she didn't respond, I had frowned; a face Andrew tells me makes me look somehow more mysterious.
The trip I had then taken to her room revealed only that she had passed out on the bed, and that she smelt of sadness. But at that time, sadness wasn't uncommon. I don't remember how long I stood there, but I know that when I finally awoke from my thoughts, I showered and got into my softest pajamas. I settled down to do my homework, but I hadn't been trying hard, so when the time had come to make dinner, I had only made the smallest of dents.
Simply because I had been tired and hadn't been up to making anything more complicated, I made tomato soup. Mom always used to make my soup with milk rather than water, so that was how I made it too. I poured the soup into mugs, because we always liked to drink it rather than eat it. I remember sipping from my mug, and I remember how the warmth burned the roof of my mouth. The heat of it brought tears to my eyes, which were every bit as salty as the soup. I walked to her room, and knocked on the door, the sound echoing through the apartment. She hadn’t answered though, so I entered with the intention of waking her up.
“Mom!” I had said. “Wake up, I made dinner!” and I set the mugs down on her bedside table. With my freed hands, I had shaken her shoulder softly. She didn't wake though, which had surprised me, for she always woke instantly as if her dreams were frail and easy to shatter.
“Mom!” I had raised my voice, and I shook her more vigorously. “MOM!” I think it was on the third time that I finally began to realize, but I still shook her.
On the fifth try I had begun to cry, and on the sixth the calm part of me told the hysterical part: *She is fine. She will wake in the morning, I promise. She will wake.
That was the first time I ever lied to myself.
I remember pulling the covers on the bed over her, and then gingerly lying down next to her. Mom. I kept thinking to myself, as if my mere thoughts might wake her. But I had known she wasn't gone, for I felt her breath next to me, soft, shallow, and hardly discernible from my own, yet still breathing. I had drunk the rest of my soup, but left hers, telling myself she would drink it when she woke. Now, looking back, I realize how stupid it was of me to have thought that she would wake up.
I don't even remember falling asleep that night, but I must have, for in the morning when I woke I looked quickly over at her, hoping, wishing that she might have risen. I remember shaking her again, pleading, “Mom, it's the morning, and you missed dinner but it's okay, I will make you more if you please wake up, please momma. Please,” But she didn't heed me. I remember sitting in bed with her all morning, watching the clock. I didn't get ready for school. My mom was more important, I told myself. When the clock had ticked from 8:29 to 8:30, I knew the bell had rung, and I was late. I guess to me that had been a signal: The rest of the world has continued without us. I remember standing up and padding to the kitchen, and grabbing the wireless phone. I remember how icy cold it had felt, as opposed to the warmth and comfort of the bed in Mom's room. For once I simply craved the innocent warmth from my mother's inert body. I walked back in and sat on the edge of the bed. I dialed 9-1-1 and hit the 'call' button.
“This is 9-1-1 what is your emergency?” a rough male voice had said.
“I-” I had to clear my throat from lack of use. “My mom was passed out last night when I got home from school. I thought she would wake up, like she always does, but she hasn't. She is still breathing. Please come,” I had said all that with a flat voice, refusing the awful feeling in my throat that warned of tears.
“What is your location?” he asked, his voice softer now.
“913 Alvarado,” I whisper. “Fourth floor, number 413. My name is Sierra Banks.”
“Paramedics are on their way, ok?”
“Ok,” I recall how loud the click was when he hung up, and I felt the cold, empty silence press down and around me until I couldn't stand it anymore. I wanted to talk to someone, anyone, except the police officers who sounded way too casual. My mom's life might be on the line, and all they do is talk in monotone. Like they don’t care about all those lives. I knew then that I was being unfair, and that they were simply used to losing lives, but...
I looked up at the soup mugs on the table and next to them...her cell. The last person she talked to. I scooped it up, went to last calls, and hit redial.
Ring...Ring...Ring... “Hello, Clemens residence.”
“Dad.” The pain of hearing his voice then was the same as when I hear it every day now. Regret had instatly clouded my heart with the cold wall I built four years ago. Tears began to pour down my cheeks, but I can't recall now if they were hot and scalding, or cold.
“Sierra?” his voice too had become thick, and I hated him for crying. He left us.
“Yes,” I had been unable to force any other meaningless words at him. I hadn't seen him in four years, when we visited him, his beautiful new wife, and worst of all, his new baby girl. He replaced me! My throat burns to think of it. I hadn't thought of Lila, my step sister, and my replacement since she was born. Fury built up inside me. Why did mom call them last? Why does she still hold his number in her phone even after he left? And most importantly, what did they talk about? I still haven't forgotten these questions, but I most certainly haven't got any answers.
“Dad, mom is in trouble. She hasn't woken up since yesterday. I thought she would wake up but she hasn't. The ambulance is on its way,” Instantaneously, I hated myself for telling him, pouring out how scared I was. He didn't deserve to know, to pretend to feel sorry.
“Oh Sierra. Oh my beautiful daug-” he began, but I had already ended the call. How dare he call me beautiful? He hadn't seen me in so many years. He didn't deserve to pretend he care. Maybe I loved him once, but not anymore. I didn’t, and still don’t, want his sympathy, his false words, dripping in I-told-you-so. But most importantly, I didn’t want him to hear me cry.
Now I find myself having to live with him, and have to be constantly aware of him walking in on me. Like the other day when he walked into my room to see how I was doing with homework and found me rocking and bawling on the bed. Gasps had escaped from me in rapid succession; my sobs had shaken the bed so that it creaked softly. My lips curled apart from my teeth as I convulsed. I sniffed loudly and, gradually, my sobs had died down. Eventually too, my ears had regained their sense, and their voices had drifted to me from outside my bubble of silence.
Most days I had control enough to save my tears for the night or not cry at all. A week ago my English teacher had made us write letters to our parents. I had asked if I could write mine to someone else, because I was still furious at my dad, and mom left me. I know that she was in a coma, and she can't help it now, but I remember all the times that I was strong through her rampages. It didn't matter anyways, because Mr. Steiner blatantly refused. I decided to write it to mom, since I refused those days to even to acknowledge that I had a father.
And to this day I remember every word, for I read that letter a hundred times that day, until I had it committed to memory, so that I could have it with me, where ever I might be.
The ambulance arrived about five minutes after I hung up on Richard. The memory of crying, and rocking endlessly in pitch blackness made me refuse even to call him my father. What I kind of father, I asked myself, leaves his daughter crying, without comforting her, when the only person who ever loved her, is a million miles away? 'Mine,' I had answered myself, bitterly.
Icarus Kirk Jun 2013
the warmth of your arms
of your body pressed flush against mine
comfortable and easy and very perfect
it's more of an idea now
trapped in a corner
cold
and alone
i wish you were here, sweetheart
because it was you
and me
and maybe someone else
i don't remember
because you told me it wasn't significant
and i trust you
trust
trust
but **** if i don't know what you're up to anymore
you left, so i shouldn't still be keeping tabs on you
but what's a guy to do
i really did like you
love you, even
your warmth
your personality
the way we fit like two ******* puzzle pieces
i know why you left
it was you who was perfect
not me
i should have known, **** it
i should have known that it was the idea of warmth
not warmth itself.
Melissa Koe Nov 2014
The wind blew strongly. Out at sea, the fisherman’s small boat swayed in rhythm with the waves. He stood up and adjusted the sail, in case the wind blew it off. After so many years of earning a living as a fisherman, he has made peace with the sea – he no longer feels sea sick. Oh, but he feels a certain kind of sickness…… a different kind. His eyes filled with tears as he shifted his gaze from his worn out canvas sails to the horizon where the sun is just about to set. The sky above him is slightly orange – but is dulled by the gray of the storm clouds shifting in.

                He thanked the gods for the sky above and the sea below him, albeit the upcoming storm. He has recently lost his daughter, Fatema to the sea. His grief is still fresh, it still cuts deep. He lost his daughter to the tsunami that destroyed the fishing village. He has lost all his belongings – but nothing belonging to him will ever be as valuable as Fatema. Yes, grief makes him sick – and he has a good reason for that. When they found her, her body was trapped between five pieces of driftwood – it was a gruesome sight. How ironic is it? The arms of Neptune have always supported him throughout his life – making sure he earned a living and yet, the same menacing arms betrayed him and took Fatema away.

                For that, he was angry with the gods. How could they take away a life as easily as they gave it? He snapped out of his thoughts and raised the back of his hand to his eyes to wipe away the tears. His musings aren’t going to help. He has to begin sailing to find a shelter from the storm that is rolling in or else he won’t make it through the night. For the past week or so, he has been living in his small boat, making sure his stomach is full by fishing for small fish and crustaceans. He fixed his sail and began to sail in the direction of a small cove he is familiar with which will provide adequate shelter for tonight.

                As he sailed, he started to feel lonely. He reached his hand into his pocket and pulled out a locket with Fatema’s picture in it. He brought it to his face and gently kissed it, gripping it in his hand. As he sailed nearer the cove, moonlight began to illuminate the prow of his boat. When he is near enough to the shore, he skillfully measured the depth with sight alone, and lowered the anchor to make sure his boat remained in that position till dawn.
                As he descended from his boat, he waded through the water. Both of his arms are full of dried driftwood for him to start a fire tonight. He heard the distant sound of crickets and an owl. He walked toward the beach, heading towards a small cave and entered it. He checked the ground to make sure it was dry before he started a fire using the driftwood. The crackling of fire accompanied by the distant rumbling of thunder brought comfort to his ears. The flames that rose and vanished combined with the smell of the smoke left a silage – a lingering presence that soothed him. They reminded him of how he used to read stories of beasts and princesses alike to Fatema when she was a young girl until she fell asleep in his arms. Those days are long gone now. He stood up and headed back to his boat to set up the fishing nets for his meal later on tonight. He fixed the nets close to the shore before walking back to the cave to the warmth of the fire. He did not know what to do. He was supposed to sail back to the mainland by next week but the storm has been slowing him down. He listened to the rhythm of the waves crashing against his boat and drifted off to sleep……

                He opened his eyes. He did not hear any crackling from the fire nor feel the warmth from it. When he looked down, the fire has been extinguished. The moon was so high and bright now he only needed the fire for warmth. Just as he was about to stand up to fetch more wood from the boat, he heard a sound. Yes, there was a slight drizzle but it wasn’t the sound of rain hitting the sand. It was a soft, melodious voice which was….singing.
“May you sail fair to the far fields of fortune,
with diamonds and pearls at your head and your feet
and may you need never to banish misfortune,
may you find kindness in all that you meet.”

                It was the lullaby he sang to Fatema as a young girl. He began to feel excited and ignored the voice at the back of his head telling him he was insane. He looked out and saw her – Fatema, sitting on a rock. He called out to her and she looked back at him, saying something he has been yearning to hear from her – “Papa.” He was speechless and could not believe his eyes. She donned the black dress they found her in, but she barely had any scratches on her; she did not even look wounded. Instead of walking towards him, she flashed her sweetest smile and started walking towards the beach. She beckoned for him to follow her. He ran towards her, constantly calling out to her but she did not reply. She held out her hand for him to hold, and he did.

                One more step and she will reach the water now. “Fatema, what are you doing?” “Papa, just come along with me.” With those few words…..he felt like he was in a trance. There were so many questions running through the back of his mind but he ignored all of them. Was he hallucinating? He turned to his left as they waded nearer to the sea – the fishing net that he placed near his boat had a small crab in it. The moonlight that shone onto the sea reflected on her beautiful features – her curly, black hair and light brown eyes. With every step he took, he felt more nervous, confused, and excited at the same time.

                The water level is up to their chest now.  On the second day after Fatema died, when he was very much in pain, he made an analogy about grief by comparing it to the nearest thing to him. Grief is like the sea. It drowns you while everyone else is swimming. He felt more familiar towards it….. it did not seem as foreign to him anymore. If so, he is “literally” being consumed by grief as they waded deeper into the sea. He did not mind though – this is the story of a man who desperately wants his daughter back. He did not care if he was hallucinating or if she was a ghost. He does not know where she is taking him, but he wants to follow his daughter to who-knows-where; for to him, that is paradise, be it in the depths of the sea or the height of the skies.

                He can no longer see the moon.
An essay I wrote for English exam.
one hour write-up.
When you're not here to keep me warm
I'm always cold
I can't get warm
Without your touch
The feel of your arms around me
It's impossible
Impossible for me to get warm without you

You bring all the warmth and goodness to my life

I need you here
I've gotten so cold
Fill me with your warmth
You're the only thing that works
Samantha Steele Dec 2012
You are warmth
As I lay my head on your chest in the cold
As you rest your arm on my shoulder
And gently rub my arm
And you are warmth
On a cold, bad day.
Rest your head on my head
In the cold
But I dont feel it
Because you are warmth.
Keith J Collard Jun 2013
The Quest for the Damsel Fish  by Keith Collard

Author's  Atmosphere

On the bow of the boat, with the cold cloud of the dismal day brushing your back conjuring goose bumped flesh you hold an anchor.  For the first time, you can pick this silver anchor up with only one hand and hold it over your head. It resembles the Morning Star, a brutal medieval weapon that bludgeons and impales its victims.  Drop it into the dark world beyond the security of your boat--watch the anchor descend.
        Watch this silver anchor--this Morning Star--descend away from the boat and you, it becomes swarmed over with darkness.  It forms a ******-metallic grin at first as it sinks, then the sinking silver anchor takes its last shape at its last visible glimpse.  It is so small now as if it could be hung from a necklace.  It is a silver sword.  
Peering over the side of the boat, the depths collectively look like the mouth of a Cannibalistic Crab, throwing the shadows of its mandibles over everything that sinks down into it--black mandibles that have joints with the same angle of a Reaper's Scythe.  

I am scared looking at this sinking phantasm.  I see something from my youth down there in this dark cold Atlantic.  I see the silver Morning Star again, now in golden armor.  I remember a magnificent kingdom, in a saltwater fish tank I had once and never had again.  A tropical paradise that I see again as I stare down into the depths.  This fish tank was so beautiful with the most beautiful inhabitants who I miss.  Before I could lift the silver anchor--the Morning Star--over my head with only one hand, turning gold in that morning sun-- I was a boy who sat indian style, cross legged--peering into this brilliant spectacle of light I thought awesome.  I thought all the darkness of home and the world was kept at bay by this kingdom of light...

Chapter  1 Begins the Story

The Grey Skies of Mass is the Name of This Chapter.

                                                      ­­                        
    
 Air, in bubbles--it was a world beauty of darkness revealed in slashes of light from dashing fluorescent bulbs overhead this fish tank.
Silver swords of fluorescent energy daring to the bottom, every slash revealing every color of the zodiac--from the Gold of Scorpio to the purple of Libra combining into the jade of the Gemini. 
In the center, like a dark Stonehenge were rocks. The exterior rocks had tropical colors like that of cotton candy, but the interior shadows of the rocks that was the Stonehenge, did not possess one photon of light. The silver messengers of the florescent energy from above would tire and die at their base.  The shadows of the Stonehenge rocks would stand over them as they died.

 
          When the boy named Sake climbed the rickety wood stairs of the house, he did so in fear of making noise, as if to not wake each step.
   Until he could see the glowing aura of his fish tank then he would start down that eerie hall, With pictures of ghosts and ghosts of pictures staring down at him as he walked down that rickety hallway of this towering old colonial home.  He hurried to the glowing tank to escape the black and white gazing picture frames.
                    The faint gurgling, bubbling of the saltwater tank became stronger in his ear, and that sound guided him from the last haunt of the hallway-- the empty room that was perpendicular to  his room.   He only looked to his bright tank as soon as he entered the hallway from the creaky wooden steps.  Then he proceeded to sit in front of this great tropical fish tank in Indian style with his legs folded over one another as children so often would sit.
  The sun was setting.  The reflections from the tank were beginning to send ripples down the dark walls. Increasing  wave after wave reflecting down his dark walls.  He thought they to be seagulls flapping into the darkness until they were overcome as he was listening to the bubbling water of his tank.
                " Hello my fish, hello Angel, hello Tang, hello  Hoomah, hello Clown and hello Damsel … and hello to you Crab...even though I do not like you," he said in half jest not looking at the crab in the entrance of the rocks.  The rocks were the color of cotton candy, but the interior shadows did not possess a photon of luminescence.  All other shadows not caused by the rocks--but by bright swaying ornament--were like the glaze on a candy apple--dark but delicious.  Besides the crab's layer in the rock jumble at the center of the tank which was a Stonehenge within a Stonehenge--the tank was a world of bright inviting light.
                The crab was in its routine,  motionless in the entrance to his foyer, with his scythe-like claws in the air, in expectation of catching one of the bright fish someday.  For that reason the boy tried to remove the crab in the past, but even though the boy was fast with his hand, the optical illusion of the tank would always send his hand where the crab no longer was.  He did not know how to use two hands to rid the crab in the future by trapping and destroying the Cannibal Crab ;  his father, on a weekend visit, gave the Crab to the boy to put into the bright world of the saltwater tank, which Sake quickly regretted.  His father promised him that the Crab would not be able to catch any of the fish he said " ...***** only eat anything that has fallen to the bottom or each other..."

         A scream from the living room downstairs ran up the rickety wood and down the long hall and startled the boy.  His mother sent her shrieks out to grab the boy, allowing her to not have to waste any time nor calorie on her son; for she would tire from the stairs, but her screams would not, allowing her to stay curled up on the couch.  If she was not screaming for Sake, she was talking as loud as screams on the phone with her girlfriends.  The decibels from her laugh was torture for all in the silent house.   A haughty laugh in a gossipy conversation, that overpowered the sound of the bright tropical fish tank in Sake's room that was above and far opposite her in the living room.
               " Sake you have to get a paper-route to pay for the tank, the electricity bill is outrageous," she said while not taking her eyes off the TV and her legs curled up beside her.  He would glad fully get a paper-route even if it was for a made up reason.  He turned to go, and looked back at his mother, and a shudder ran through him with a new thought:  someday her appearance will match her voice.  

              Upon reaching his tank,  Hoomah was trying to get his attention as always.  Taking up pebbles in his big pouty pursed lips and spitting them out of his lips like a weak musket.  The Hoomah was a very silly fish, it looked like one of Sake’s aunts, with too much make up on, slightly overweight, and hovering on two little fins that looked incapable of keeping it afloat, but they did.  The fins reminded him of the legs of his aunt--skinny under not so skinny.’

               The Tang was doing his usual aquanautics , darting and sailing was his trick.  He was fast, the fastest with his bright yellow triangular sail cutting the water.  Next was the aggressive Clown fish, the boy thought she was always aggresive because she didn't have an anemone to sleep on.  The Clown was strong and sleek with an orange jaw and body that was built like a tigress.
  Sake thought something tragic about the body if the  orange Clown and the three silver traces that clawed her body as decoration -they reminded him of the incandescent orange glow of a street lamp being viewed through the rainy back windshield of a car.   The Clown fish was a distraction that craved attention.
The Clown would chase around some of the other fish and jump out of the water to catch the boy's eye. 
                 Next is the Queen Angel fish, she is the queen of the tank, she sits in back all alone, waving like a marvelous banner, iridescent purple and golden jade.  Her forehead slopes back in a French braid style that streams over her back like a kings standard waving before battle, but her standard is of a house of beauty, and that of royal purple.

                    Lastly is the Damsel Fish, the smallest and most vulnerable in the tank.  She has royal purple also, rivaling the queen. Her eyes are lashed but not lidded like the Hoomah.  Her eyes are elliptical, and perhaps the most human, or in the boy’s opinion, she is the most lady like, the Hoomah and the Queen Angel come to her defence if she is chased around by the Clown.  Her eyes penetrate the boys, to the point of him looking away.  

                      Before the tank, in its place in the corner was a painting, an oil painting of another type of Clown donning a hat with orange partial make-up on his face (only around eyes nose and mouth there was ghost white paint) and it  had two tears coming down from its right eye.  The Clown painting was given to him by his mother, it seems he could not be rid of them, but Sake at first was taken in by the brightness of the Clown, and the smooth salacious wet look of the painting. it looked dripping, or submerged, like another alternate reality.  The wet surreal glaze of the painting seemed a portal, especially the orange glow of the Clown's skin without make-up.  .  If he tried to remember of times  before the Clown painting that preceded the Clown fish, he thought of the orange saffron twilight of sunset, and watching it from the high window from his room in the towering house.  How that light changed everything that it touched, from the tree tops and the clouds, to even the dark hallway leading up to his room.  The painting and the Clown fish did not feel the same as those distant memories of sunset, especially the summer sunset when his mother would put him to bed long before the sun had set.  
Sake did not voice opposition to the Clown.
Then he was once again trapped by the Clown.  
            The boy was extremely afraid of this painting that replaced the sunsets , being confined alone with it by all those early bedtimes.
Sake once asked his mother if he could take it down, whereas she said " No."  That clown would follow him into his dreams, always he would be down the hill from the tall house on the hill, trying to walk back to the house, but to walk away or run in a dream was like walking underwater or in black space, and he would make no distance as the ground opened up and the clown came out of the ground hugging him with the pryless grip of eight arms.  He would then wake up amid screams and a tearful hatted clown staring somberly down at him from the wall where it was hung.  Night made him fear the Clown painting more;  that ghost white make-up decorating around the eyes and mouth seeming to form another painting in entirety.  He could only look at the painting after a while when the lights were on, and the wet looking painting was mostly orange from the skin, neck, and forearms of the hat wearing clown.  But the painting is gone now, and the magnificent light display of the tank is there now.  

                Sake pulled out the fish food, all the fish bestirred in anticipation of being fed.  The only time they would all come together; and that was to mumble the bits of falling flakes: a chomp from the Clown, a pucker from the Hoomah, the fast mumble of the Tang, and the dainty chew of the Damsel.  The Queen Angelfish would stay near the bottom, and kiss a flake over and over.   She would not deign herself to go into a friendly frenzy like the other fish; she stayed calm, yet alluring like a flag dancing rhythmically in the breeze, but never repeating the same move as the wind never repeats the same breeze.  She is the only fish to change colors.  When the grey skies of Mass emit through every portal in the house at the height of its bleakness, her colors would turn more fantastic, perhaps why she is queen.

                 He put his finger in the top of the watery world; the warmth was felt all the way up his arm.  After feeding, his favorite thing to do was to trace his finger on the top of the warm water and have the Damsel follow it. She loved it, it was her only time to dance, for the Clown would descend down in somewhat fear ( or annoyance) of the boys finger, and the Damsel and he would dance.  The boy, thought that extraordinary.

                     Sake bedded down that night, to his usual watery world of his room.  The reflective waves running down the walls like seagulls of light, with the rhythmic gurgling sound and it's occasional splash of the Clown, or the Hoomah swooping into the pebbly bottom to scoop up some pebbles for spitting making the sound "ccchhhhh" --cachinging  like a distant underwater register.  The tank’s nocturne sound was therapeutic to the boy.

                      Among waking up, and being greeted by his sparkling treasure tank--that was always of the faintest light in the morning due to the grey skies of Mass coming through every portal to lessen the tropical spectrum-- the boy would render his salutations " Good morning my Hoomah.....good morning Tang, my Damsel, and your majesty Queen Angel.....and so forth.  Until the scream would come to get him, and he would walk briskly past the empty room and the looming family pictures of strangers.  His mother put him to work that day, to "pay for the fish tank" but really to buy her a new cocktail dress for her nightly forays.  The boy did not care, the tank was his sun, emitting through the bleak skies of Mass, and even if the tank was reduced to a haze by the overcast of his life, it only added a log to the fire that was the tropical world at night, in turn making him welcome the dismal day.
                  On a day, when the overcast was so thick, he felt he could not picture his rectangular orb waiting for him at night. He had trouble remembering what houses to deliver the paper.  He delivered to the same house three times.  Newspapers seemed to disappear in his hands, due to their color relation to the sky.   Leaves were falling from the trees—butterfly like—he went to catch one, he missed--a first. For Sake could walk through dense thorned brambles and avoid every barb, as a knight in combat or someone’s whose heart felt the painful sting of the barb before.  He would stand under a tree in late fall, and roll around to avoid every falling leaf, and pierce them to the ground deftly with a stick fashioned as a sword.  He could slither between snow flakes, almost like a fish nimbly avoiding small flakes.  
                  After he finished his paper-route , he went to his usual spot under an oak tree to fence with falling leaves.  As the other boys walked by and poked fun he would stall his imagination, and look to the brown landscape of the dry fall.  The crisp brown leaves of the trees were sword shapes to him.  He held the battle ax shape of the oak leaf over his eye held up by the stick it was pierced through, and spied the woodline through the sinus of the oak leaf lobe.  The brown white speckled scenery, were all trying to hide behind eachother by blending in bleakfully; he pretended the leaf was Hector’s helmet from the Illiad—donned over his eyes.
“ Whatchya doing Sake?” asked a young girl named Summer.  Sake only mumbled something nervously and stood there.  And a pretty Summer passed on after Sake once again denied himself of her pretty company.  He looked to the woodline again, a mist was now concealing the tall apical trees.  It now looked like the brown woodland was not trying to retreat behind eachother in fall concealment, but trying to emerge forth out of the greyness to say "save us."

“ Damgf” he uttered, and could not even grasp a word correctly.  His head lifted to the sky repeatedly, there was no orb, and the shadows were looming larger than ever; fractioned shadows from tree branches were forming scythes all over the ground.
             He entered the large shadow that was his front door, into the house that rose high into the sky, with the simplicity of Stonehenge.  He climbed the rickety petrified stairs and went down the hall.  Grey light had spotlighted every frame on the wall.  He looked into the empty room, nothingness, then his room, the tank seemed at its faintest, and it was nearing twilight.  He walked past the tank to look out the w
Bryan Lunsford Aug 2018
It is within an unusually warm and early spring night,
Here, where I begin to feel something ever so unusual while looking deeply into this goddess' eyes,

With her eyes like a pair of diamonds sparkling in the sky,
It's at this moment–in this part of the night–
Love simply didn't need a reply,

With candles lit,
As it's surely to her delight,
And with rose petals all over the bed–
That, surely, was to her surprise,

Though, right now,
Can you really blame me for having this nervous butterfly-feeling whirling around inside?

For this will be the first-ever night that I'll get to hold this beauty tight,

And for such a divine beauty,
Surely I'd make any sacrifice to make sure her every whim and need is perfectly sufficed,

Yes, with our feelings for each other that couldn't be more pure or refined,
I already know, without hesitance, our love would satisfy any god's most delicate appetite inside,

And although, this world may never know how I truly feel inside,
I, myself, know with certainty that I love this woman more than anything I've ever loved in my whole life,

Yet, with nothing more than the sound of crickets chirping within the night,
I proceed to lay this beauty down–
Here, pulling her close to my side (where I tell her)
"I love you, angel, good night",

And even though our love never did need a reply,
She said
"I love you too, sweet dreams baby, don't forget to hold me ever so tight",

And thus with this crazy, whirling, butterfly-feeling, again, that I begin to feel take over inside,
She rolls over unexpectedly and surprises me with a kiss to seal any other reply–
To only roll back over and close her eyes,

Oh, and in the midst of her every action–every move leaving me mesmerized,
She decides to move an inch closer to me,
(Where I wrap my arm around her thighs)
As it's also nearly simultaneously that I hear the clock's stride finally hit midnight,

With a chime that struck once–
Then struck twice,
I begin to hear a set of chimes strike–and strike until they chime twelve times,  
(As these chimes come from this evilly wicked, horrid and heinous clock of mine)

Yes!–with this clock being a clock that through time I have come to slowly hate and despise!

Though, this tower of a clock reminds me of its presence with not the tics nor the tocs–
No, only when the minute hand climbs and the hour's hand meets another notch,

As only then, within that second of the minute, does my mind's thoughts get crossed and rocked–
With my thoughts that become locked within a box
(As it'll be for the next sixty minutes)
I'll just lie there and remain distraught,

Oh, and you ask why?–
Simply because of this chiming noise that won't stop!

With these reoccurring chimes that take my sleep and make most nights a loss–
I can assure you that if I don't go to bed by one or two o'clock,
Any sleep for me will become more and more implausible by every tic of the clock,

Yes, nearly impossible–
For it'll be with the next four or five hours, I'll just lie there, roll, and toss,

Though this is a different night!–
As I'm reminded with our legs crossed and with our fingers interlocked,

Yet, here as I begin to feel the warmth of her body block and fend off any kind or sorts of lingering winter's frost,
I also sense that numerous candles are still glowing bright,
(With the sight of their ambient light flickering off of the bedside's wall from abroad)

And, within this room filled with sentiment as I hear not a sound at all,
I smell the candle's aromatic scents,
With the atmosphere within the air being ever so calm,

Until that is, I hear another chime of a ****–
With it sounding like a melody that's gone ever so wrong–
It's with this tower of a clock, right here, that has just let me know it's now the hour of one o'clock–
And one o'clock, right on the dot,

With only one lone chime that I heard–as everything then simply paused and stopped,

Though, within my mind and with these thoughts that refuse to stop,
I reassure myself–
Knowing that the time is only one o'clock,

For I know I still have an aplenty of time to close my eyes and make these endless lines of thoughts stop,

So to this brilliant mind of mine,
You know that it's clearly time to let these thoughts wander off,

Just close your eyes and let your mind stop–

Though, didn't I just say enough with your thoughts?

Oh, and I can see you might think a lot,
But clearly and obviously you're not thinking about squat!

So just stop or I swear to god,
If you don't stop with these god awful thoughts,
I'll have no other option than to smash and squash your head against these bricks outside of this wall and then leave you there to rot–

For if you don't stop this exact instant then I am almost certain your beautiful woman will become a loss,

And I'm sure you don't want that to happen again, now do you?

So just stop with these thoughts–
Quit fooling around and whatever you do–
Oh, and whatever you do,
Don't let this beauty see that crazed loony side inside of you,

Just fall asleep now and you both can wake up tomorrow around noon,

Yes, just close your eyes and count these sheep jumping over the moon,
And count them jumping one by one–then two by two,

Yet, between one and two,
Surely I knew I was bound to come unglued,
(With the loony that came right out of me as I hear a tune)

With a chime that struck once and then twice,
It left my mind to know not what to do,

Though, that doesn't mean I am confused,
With the duo of chimes that struck–
Only letting me know it's now into the minutes of the night that come directly after two,

And though,
As I begin feeling as if a disaster was nearing in soon,
Still, I knew not what to do–

Because I know nothing as I'm thinking of nothing and just fading away within the scents of her perfume,

(Where I begin fading away within this serenity and hearing not a tune)
I feel the weight of my eyelids begin to feel like a caving-in roof weighing at least a ton or two,

And with just one of a few wondrous thoughts still wandering on through,
I wonder
"Could this be sleep that is nearing in soon?”,

With this feeling of a wonderful tranquil sensation subduing and leaving my whole body consumed,
(As I'm weary and with clearly not a thought left in this room)
I take one last deep breath
(With my lungs swelling like a balloon)

And within a dream is where I have just entered into–:
UNTIL ABRUPTLY I HEAR A SNOOZING OF A TUNE!

Yes!–As I'm awakened and with the insanity within in me being let loose to roam throughout this room,
My mind, then, begins to shift back and forth (like something caught drifting between a typhoon and a monsoon)

Where realizing as I view that I've opened my eyes too soon–
With it being this beauty here of mine that is the one who is creating this horrendous little tune,

And feeling, as I hear–
With every single breath that she breathes rattling the room–the walls–and even the shingles upon the roof,
I feel my mind, here, completely coming all the way unglued–
For all I want to do is make everything within this room mute!

Yes, that's all I want to do!–

For I’m sure I wouldn't even be in such a foul mood if I wasn’t sleep deprived,
And if this beauty here of mine and her snoring roar weren’t the main culprits of keeping me, my mind, and this night alive,

Though, hearing with her roaring of a snore that is beginning to drive me crazy inside–
Yes, as she snores, there!–just an inch or two away from my side–
I hear with her snore only growing more and more–

As I, then, within this second, try to ignore a chord of chimes striking once, and then striking twice,
(With this clock striking three times to remind me once again of the time)

–With this night now being at least 3:03, 3:04, and could possibly even be 3:05,
I know this night is at the most three or four hours away from seeing the sun shine bright through my window blinds,

Oh, and surely I already know I probably would just close my eyes–
Yes, that's probably what I would do!
But this little beauty here of mine is worse than any set of chimes,

And surely indecisive,
(As I move the pillow over my ears while I'm consumed by an irritating form of fright)
I move my body a little to the left and then a few inches to the right,
Where I hear her demon's rumbling from inside,
And screaming as if they're trying to come out and fight–

(Which is where I begin thinking)
“Is waking her up really that much of a crime?”

For if she knew she was snoring at such a high decibel level,
Then I'm sure she wouldn't even mind,

And thus with my decisions that couldn't agree more with my mind,
I decide to slightly lift her head and wiggle her,
(As I nearly tickle her left side)

Whispering to her as I say,
"Baby, wake up, I just had the worst dream of my life!
Oh, baby, wake up, I just need to see those sweet little angel eyes!",

Though motionless–
There, as I try to keep my insane and crazy side inside,
My whisper begins to intensify to a scream
(As she refuses to open her eyes or give me a reply)

I continued to scream–SCREAMED!

"Oh, why, oh, why won't you open your eyes!",

And with her snore being the only reply that she could give me,
It literally drove me crazy inside–
Thus driving me as it drove me to climb on top of her body,
(Where I grab her nose and squeeze)

As it's within the silence and in this exact instant,
Instantly and unbelievably, I see I've hit a stride that I couldn't believe,

Yes, mesmerized!
And content beyond belief–
With her snoring, here, that has finally ceased–

–Casually, I proceed to climb off of her body
(Wherein realization I finally can go back to sleep)

And in the silence, again, as I hear not a peep,
I roll over, close my eyes, and before I could even count one jumping sheep,
I hear a roar once more coming from this treacherous little beast,

And surely with not a second more could I go without sleep,
(As this pillow, right here, has just become my best friend, and the most plausible way to get any sleep)
I decide to move this pillow over her face–with my exertion at first lacking any tenacity,

But what I'd end up hearing would be like a growl or a roar of a wicked beast,

With this sinister snore of hers only increasing more and more with every tic of my heart's beat,
I begin to feel my thoughts shift toward the sentiment of either insane or crazy,

(As my hands push with more and more of an intensity)
I begin sweating–feeling the smothering warmth of her body's heat,

Though, simultaneously as I hear her heart throb and knock an unstoppable and irregular beat,
I begin putting even more weight upon this pillowcase
(With a galore of my sweat dripping upon these sheets)

And surely I have to know,
(For it should be as obvious as could be)
That if I put any more weight upon this pillowcase,
I'd likely break through the toughest of the most unbreakable concretes,

And thus coming to the realization–
With this crazy side of me that has taken over and been unleashed surely not being me,

It's here, against the greatest of restraints
(As I'm barely able to climb off of her body)
I climb off and begin waiting within the silence–

Waiting and hearing not a peep,
Where seemingly prompting myself to say,
Here, as I speak!
"Good night baby–sweet dreams",

Though, I'd hear not a reply–
As a reply was something our love never did need,

Yet, as I roll over to climb under these sheets and close my eyes
(Where simultaneously it all has seemed)
I have fallen fast asleep within a dream while holding my sleeping beauty tight–

Holding her as I squeeze–
Holding her!–
With her heart that holds not a beat–.
SM May 2014
Who could I thank
for this serenity
and the warmth that floods through me
each day when you’re all I see
I have no one to blame
and no one to hate
when you’re so good to me
I know when the day is done
and it gets harder
the warmth will be mine
and yours
to remember
Isrella Uong Dec 2017
I was warm
always warm
I tried to make you laugh
i couldn’t make you cry
No tear would melt
from your ice cube eyes
Because you’re cold –
you weren’t always cold
I didn’t know how
to pierce through your stone
I wasn’t sharp
not sharp enough
But i thought i had
an instrument sharp enough
I then knew that my warmth
couldn’t melt through stone
But maybe it could’ve
at least melted your ice
Surface sigh
they say that fire melts ice
So maybe warmth
could overthrow frosty snow
But i guess i was wrong
to even test your cold
Because maybe fire is
capable of melting ice
But that doesn’t mean that
warmth can overthrow cold
Try to picture this image
i’d like to color – in white
If you place a vulnerable warmth
on an iceland of snow
Surely the blizzard wind
will suffocate the warmth and
The warmth will become cold  
– this feels like a retelling
Now i’ve grown cold
towards your distant show
There’s nothing growing
on our trail covered with snow
I was a fire but now i’m cold
and you remained this way
Now both of our hearts
are cold towards each other
Because it’s elemental
this glassy window
From which i can see
the other side – there you are
But it’s blocking me
from getting closer to you
Maybe because i’m still
a little bit warm & sunny
But our trail of snow
has been blocked by the window
Now i’ve become distant
towards your photo
Like an unreachable memory
too blazing to unfold
Nostalgia for the warmth
we once had for each other
But now our hearts have
grown cold towards each other
Because you said & i said
that we must guard our hearts
December 14, 2017. “[I] Don’t wanna be stone cold […].”
David Walker Jul 2013
I want to be depressing.
I want to be depressed.
If I did it wouldn't solve anything.
I couldn't give any less.

There are things in my possession
I can't get rid of no matter how I try.
I won't ever learn my lesson,
no matter how much I cry.

I think I could leave right now.
Go somewhere and not exist.
I will disappear without you knowing how.
I don't think there is more than this.

Stop following.
Stop caring.
Stop wallowing.
Stop staring.

I will bleed,
for years upon years.
I don't like what I breed,
tears and fears.

If love begets hate,
then this shall end mine.
One last kiss, one last date,
one more embrace, one more time.

I wish it would go away,
I wish it could end right here.
I just want you to stay,
I just want to make it a year.

Start searching.
Start moving.
Start living.
Start loving.

We can start over.
We can start again.

I can feel it again.

Warmth.
Warmth.
Warmth.
Warmth.
30 minutes. This is the longest amount of time I have ever put into a poem. This one took 45. I will say with no ego that this is the best poem I have ever written. Jackie...this is for you.
kerrin williams Jul 2013
The warmth is felt yet again
Not from the sun
Not from love
Not from happiness
The warmth is brought upon by pain
By the blood so thick
Slowly falling down and you feel yet again
The warmth that is brought on by the pain of life
Roberta Day Oct 2011
I want to sleep forever and reside in my dreams
           To frolic through a collage of different spectacles and scenes
                An escape from the insufferable, cruel world at large
I want to sleep forever

I want to sleep forever so I can live in my dreams
           The ruler of the lands, the queen of all kings
               With nothing to fear but the darkside of the conscience
I want to sleep forever

I want to sleep forever and fight my inner demons
        Provide peace of mind for all bothered and exhausted
              Float on utter bliss; those monsters, I'll never miss
I want to sleep forever

I want to sleep forever and never show sadness again
        Bright, long-lasting smiles on weekly sullen days
             Created and maintained in a variety of ways
I want to sleep forever

I want to sleep forever to erase everything
       I want to sleep forever and feel warmth again
           To bathe myself in content that won't ever end
Let me sleep forever
Alyssa Underwood May 2018
"The Struggle for Love"
"The Longing for Home"
So desperate to prove
That our hearts aren't alone

While death looms wherewith
To make dust of our flesh
We seek in a myth
Our souls to enmesh

With a hero of hope
A rescuing source
To widen our scope
And give pith to our course

An unshakable tie
An attachment at core
Which might silence the cry
That our hearts are at war

With a pure set of eyes
Full of fire and proficient
To dispel all the lies
That our souls aren't deficient

But it's not our mere lack
Which causes most dread
It's the earth-shattering fact
That our spirits are dead

Cut off from their Source
In a black alienation
Humanity's curse
For its rank ins'bordination

We just want our own way
And to write our own story
So we plunge on astray
To seek our own glory

To play artist or muse
Or idol or chief
Any self-styled ruse
To assuage us of grief

Any measure to show
A lasting signif'cance
So that someone would know
Our unique magnif'cence

For our beauty's been marred
And we crave a redemption
Of souls twisted and scarred
By fulfillment's exemption

But, alas, we will find
That search hard as we may
There's not one of our kind
Who can carry the tray

Upon which the weight
Of our souls has been laid
For who can e'er tolerate
Its gross debts unpaid?

Such suff'cating mass
Of defects and ills
Pressed 'gainst delicate glass
Of egos and wills

Still more ghastly to bear
Is devotion unbound
For with millstone to wear
Its master is drowned

'Neath a sea of foul yeast
And becomes the enslaved
To a hungering beast
To a worship depraved

For the heart is a tiger
And must have its fill
So it raises a man higher
With a kiss before the ****

Not intentionally, of course,
Does it slaughter its idol
But of hurricane force
Is this longing so vital

And as pedestal turns
So quickly to altar
Our wounded pride burns
When our gods and alms falter

And the fire of its rage
Turns upon its obsession
Tiger breaks out of cage
To reclaim self-possession

It bites and it tears
What it once so adored
And pride no longer cares
If it kills its false lord

But upon such demise
The soul screams in terror
For it's broken its prize
And can't take back its error

It begs and it pleads
To restore what's been lost
But at end knows it needs
To consider the cost

Of the damage untold
It has left in the wake
For hearts can't be controlled
With a gush or a shake

No, men's hearts are like bombs
Which so easily explode
Once the pin is removed
All past wrongs will re-load

So the prey becomes hunter
When the tiger attacks
For he does not want her
To see what he lacks

As he, too, had put
Her up in wrong place
But now steps his foot
Upon her shamed face

To now pulverize
As his own heart's been crushed
To blind out her eyes
And to see her lips hushed

For with words idly spoken
She'd stabbed at his soul
And had left his pride broken
By her judgments so cold

She had not meant to harm
Knew not e'en that he heard
But one cannot disarm
A thought put to word

Worse than not knowing this
She no longer knew him
And her once imagined bliss
Proved a nullified whim

Oh, what games and delusions
We play and we build
Upon empty illusions
And dreams unfulfilled

Yet strangely it's when
Our worst fears come true
We can finally transcend
All those old tales we grew

Out of ego and void
Out of sorrow and pain
When our nerves felt annoyed
And our hearts felt too vain

'Cause when ego is puffed
It is primed, too, to pop
And with pinprick is snuffed
Like a pest-blighted crop

So imagine much more
When a venom's injected
Right into its core
And its heart is rejected

But can you also not see
How it needs such a burst
To begin to get free
From its self-absorbed curse?

Except now feels the matter
Of our soul's isolation
Fiercer still with the shatter
Of our pet consolation

So we wait and we wonder
If we've missed the true meaning
Of the frightening thunder
In our heart's constant screaming

Whether homesick or lost
Whether lonely or grieved
Locked in bleak Winter's frost
We find little reprieve

Yet we know we've been made
For the glory of Spring
Some card's still to be played
Some grand song still to sing

Inexpressible yearning
For some secret we know
But can't speak for the burning
Repercussions of woe

Not some mere melancholy
Nor nostalgic forlorn
Not the musings of folly
But a sense that we're torn

From primordial root
And from headwaters fresh
Yet much deeper to boot
From our spiritual breath

'Tis an ache not for wares,
Appreciation or fame
But a fight just for air
Against strangling shame

For we're naked, we know
And with all we devise
Our most flawed parts still show
To a pure set of eyes

Like we're walking around
With no covering intact
But thin hospital gown
With wide split up the back

So we hide our true face
Aim to be what we're not
Work our blots to erase
Lest our schemes should be caught

Be 't by friend or by foe
We dare not risk the pain
Of humiliation's blow
On top of our stain

But instead of relief
Anguish grows louder till
This life's loneliest grief
Paralyzes the will

And last hope all but dies
On doubt's bed of despair
While embittered heart cries
That its lot's too unfair

Yet on outside we play
Through our unconscious mind
Man's collective charade
That everything's fine

Like some pact we'd all sworn
To uphold and obey
To protect from the scorn
Of society's sway

If we run with the flow
'Stead of strive 'gainst the tide
We might make enough show
To salvage our pride

We forget that conceit
Is what caused all the mess
Through a serpent's deceit
And a couple's wrong guess

'Twas they first tasted shame
And then hid in a garden
Sewing fig leaves as claim
To secure their own pardon

Yet in horror they knew
They had squandered the Prize
And must flee from the view
Of a pure set of eyes

Now same state of awry
Runs through each of their seed
Inborn and borne by
Like the thorniest ****

Whose nettles pierce deep
And infect every part
While roots tangle and sweep
Through the mind and the heart

It mocks what we've lost
Torments every dim hope
To constrict and accost
Like a noose-tightening rope

Still, hope won't be decayed
Smold'ring fires yet burn
Sparking hints that we're made
For bright Eden's return

This redemption we crave
Is no phantom's false plea
But as crestfallen wave
Hides itself in the sea

It's been veiled in plain sight
Big as all of our stories
Deep as mankind's full plight
And as high as its glories

Cloaked in every ambition
That we have to get in
To some exclusive coalition
For its favors to win

Lurks a bleeding predilection
Frustrated from birth
A desire for election
To bestow on us worth

Lured by scent of a promise
To be chosen and known
Like the warmth of a mom's kiss
Given only to her own

We search tree after tree
For sweet intimacy's nectar
From a fruit that will be
Our secret connecter

To hope's nourishing breast
To life's honey from comb
To an undying rest
To a straight way toward home

One to wipe away tears
And allay deepest doubt
Which proceeds from worst fears
Of our being locked out

Of a garden again
Cast from pure tree of life
Dim remembrance of when
Mankind first entered strife

All our conflicts, comp'tition,
Confusion and blame
Find first cause in perdition
That's invaded our frame

Like the foulest disease
The most cankerous rot
Grown by monstrous degrees
Hatched by Lucifer's plot

This story's no ****'s attack
Nor archaic folklore
But the earth-shattering fact
That our hearts are at war

With a pure set of eyes
Full of fire and proficient
To dispel all the lies
That our souls aren't deficient

And it's not our mere lack
which causes most dread
But the earth-shattering fact
That our spirits are dead

Cut off from their Source
In a black alienation
Humanity's curse
For it's rank ins'bordination


And yet...


This is also the story
Of how those same eyes
The Possessor of Glory
Looked with love and heart cries

On the crown of creation
His reflection of Self
Made His own treasured nation
The heirs of His wealth

Now broken and lost
All banished from Garden
And He knew the full cost
To grant them His pardon

Had known long before
He had e'er even made
That first man of yore
Yet handcrafts anyway

For His love is so strong
And He wanted to share
His intimacy with a throng
His own children to bear

So with souls in convulsion
From their rebellious misdeed
Just before their expulsion
He promised a Seed

One untainted from sin
Who could take its great boulder
And the weight of His kin
Upon His own shoulder

A Hero of hope
A rescuing Source
To widen our scope
And give pith to our course

An unshakable tie
An attachment at core
Who would silence the cry
That our hearts are at war

With a pure set of eyes
Full of fire and proficient
To dispel all the lies
That our souls aren't deficient

For those eyes are His own
And He'd pay the full fee
By His body alone
To set our hearts free

He's hope's nourishing breast
He's life's honey from comb
He's our undying rest
He's our straight way toward home

He will wipe away tears
And allay deepest doubt
Which proceeds from worst fears
Of our being locked out

Of the Garden again
Cast from pure Tree of Life
Dim remembrance of when
Mankind first entered strife

But 'twas on another tree
That sweet intimacy's nectar
Was secured tight when He
Became sacred Connector

And the thorns of our curse
Were pressed onto His head
With not one there to nurse
As the Son of Man bled

Then the wrath for our sin
Was absorbed as He cried
And the foul curse was broken
When the Son of God died

But death couldn't keep Him long
Nor His glory dispose
And we found our lost song
When the King of kings rose!

The debt had been paid
He had finished the work
The tide 'gainst us was swayed
We weren't left in our lurk

And we've only to now
Just repent and believe
To open and allow
Our hearts to receive

Our Divine Fountainhead
Our covering complete
To sup from His bread
And to sit at His feet

To worship the One
For Whom we were made
By Whom we've been won
Whom forever we've craved

The One Who can bear
Our hearts' full devotion
The One Who won't tear
At our souls' raw emotion

The One Who will be
Sweet eternity's song
Who with lasting decree
Will...right...every...wrong
~~~

First two lines taken from Timothy Keller sermon titles;
also inspired by his other sermons:
"The Breastplate of Righteousness"
"Blessed Self-Forgetfulness"
"The Sandals of Peace"
"The Wounded Spirit"

~~~

for more on this:
https://hellopoetry.com/poem/2179517/the-gospel-of-jesus-christ/

~~~
Elaina Dec 2013
I find myself standing alone in the barren valley. The wind is cold, it burns my nose. I feel it moving my hair. Shivers run though me. The smell it brings tells me that snow is not far off.

Looking in the distance, clouds cover the mountain. It's where I must go. A new home lies beyond the tall peaks. It's calling me. Why did it send it's message now?

It's hard to explain this pull it has over me. I must get there. It's where I belong. Where I am supposed to be. Moving forward I keep my focus. Determined to survive.
...........

It's warmer now. I feel the heat of the sun. The brightness of the day has replaced the gray of the dawn. Others are making themselves known.
..................

I see the tall grass move against the wind. Rabbit moves leaving a trail of dust. The shadow of a hawk passes to the left as it chases after it's intended meal.
...................

Soon I must eat. Looking around I see the dew covered tips of tender new shoots. Putting my head down I breathe in the scent of the earth, knowing that she will always provide.

Walking again I pleasure in the warmth of the sun.
...................

Looking up, the peaks are throwing their shadow over me. I begin the climb. Steady I go, feeling more and more sure of my path. The path that guides me home, and the path that guides my soul.

The higher I climb, the colder it gets. Patches of white snow appear. The clouds of my breath fade into the space in front of me. Onward I push, my goal is true, to reach the other side.
...................

The more I struggle, the more I want this, need this. Placing one foot in front of another I make my way.

To the right, I see not far off, a overhang. A place of shelter for the night. The daylight is gone and rest is calling. When the sun rises next, my journey will take me deeper into the mountain, nearer to my home.
....................

Late into the night, stars appear. Brilliant lights such as I have never seen. The air feels new, so cold and crisp. It tells me that new beginnings are here. I sleep knowing all is well.
.....................

The morning sun brings relief from the cold. As I travel onward, it's warmth on the snow provides water to quench my thirst.

The trees are gone now. The rugged mountainside holds little in it's rocky soil. Life is scarce. This only serves to increase my drive to get home. Soon, very soon, I will be there.
......................

The sun that brought warmth earlier has crossed over the peaks. Cold is settling in, but I can see the end of the rise. In a very short time I will be in sight of my new home.
.....................

My soul is singing. Far off in the distance, I look down on a flock of birds winging effortlessly through the air. Light from the late afternoon sun is dancing off the winding river, and a heard of Buffalo graze freely among the grasses.

At last, I step down from the mountain. The overwhelming drive that guided me, has lead me home. Everywhere I look, I see what brought me here. Tears form. I am more than blessed. I am... complete.
The original running title was 'Come back for more, or is this the end?: January 15, 13, 8, 5e, 1. December 31x2, 29, 14, 9, 8'.
Namal Apr 2018
words without warmth
are like the dry wind
that has lost its water
over the high cliffs of life

they cannot water a wilting soul
but  will only take away
the little life left
and leave it collapsed

"thank you"s are tired
over worked, over used
only an ASCII  string, no more
"i’m sorry"s stare in the face
of the expectant mind
expressionless

bring words back from the wastelands
give them the life they’ve lost
make them carry between their bits
the warm care of a human for another
Michelle M Diaz May 2014
fire, blankets, your arms
they all bring warmth
to my cold self
fire too hot to touch
blankets wrap me up, comfy, cozy
your arms, home
Lapis Solarflare Aug 2013
4 years pass and I still find myself dreaming of you.
Your eyes are the sky and your chocolate brown hair is soft as the clouds.
You left me for her, a girl with mirth and shiny blonde hair.
She became your sun, her warmth something you craved to hold.
And I, the earth below, like my hazel eyes and red-brown hair.

Isn't it ironic? The earth looks up, reaching for the sky, while the sky reaches further away for the sun's warmth.

But my relationship with my sky is still connected,
as even while he reaches for the sun,
I catch his raining tears and hold them dearly,
letting his feelings wash over me.
I give him the air and colorful world to look down upon,
to cheer him up and dry his tears.

It hurts when the sky then reaches again for the sun,
seen again as his clouds move from his face,
and blesses her with pleasantries of drying his tears with her warmth.
And the earth watches sadly in vain,
catching the sun's lingering rays in hopes to borrow her warmth
and reach the sky she so dearly loves.

But when the sun sets, resting till morn,
The sky and the earth converse in a dark chatter,
Cooling and calming together.

This time we have,
a time I cherish.
The sun is gone, and I the earth, can feel the sky hug me in return, and in wait.
And even though at certain hours, the sun returns and showers her warmth,
the earth will always be below, lying in wait,
and sending the moon to light the darkness,
the hopeful friendship of a wilting flower refusing to die,
watered by the tears of a lover lost to the sun.

Time will pass and the earth will never stop hoping
for the roles to reverse,
for the sun to reach it's warmth to the sky,
while the sky reaches its expanse of blue and cool, shady clouds
back to the earth that forever loves him,
causing beautiful meadows to bloom in the process.
What am I even doing, gosh ;~;

*ahem* Anyways~ I felt like writing about my ex-boyfiend who's recently returned to my life, but I didn't want to be quite so straightforward about it, so I instead used imagery, in some sort of way.

Hope you all like it, and thanks to anyone who reads! <3 ^u^
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.

— The End —