Discussion in 'General Chat' started by LillianLexicon97, May 29, 2015.

    1. LillianLexicon97

      LillianLexicon97 Member

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      Well, someone said they wanted to see a poetry thread so here it is :). I'm sharing my own work here, too. Feel free to leave you're own work down below.
      I don't know what to call this poem.

      In all my years
      never thought I'd be here.
      Drunk on the floor
      just eying the door
      to a future not yet clear.

      I raged and seethed.
      Nothing more to bleed.
      But can I think fast enough?
      Or will I need kick and shove
      to get just what I need?

      'Cause courage's hard to muster
      At times I feel flustered.
      I try hard and try again
      but failure apprehends
      my esteems budding luster.

      I refuse to succumb.
      Becoming unsightly bum.
      Holding fate by the neck;
      always within check.
      Never to be trapped under thumb.

      I have more work, including this poem, on my Tumblr.
      I decided to share this one mostly because it was inspired by my T.
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    2. Lorenzo74

      Lorenzo74 Member Benefactor

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      Brava @LillianLexicon97 !

      Great poem...

      I will share the first one I ever wrote back in 1995... Gosh time flies :)

      See the things that you are looking for:

      See the things that you are looking for,
      as an individual and as a whole,
      don' t forget your nature,
      don' t reglect your pleasures,
      ‘cause we are one in all,
      so don't be scared at all.

      See the things that you are looking for,
      in the people (and) in the world,
      wish your dreams to be kind and true,
      and many things will come to you,
      look at me and see yourself,
      as I see me in yourself.

      See the things that you are looking for,
      don' t despair yourself at all,
      and if harder you will try,
      soon or later you will cry,
      tears of joy and tears of love,
      will express your deeper love.
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    3. AUTHOR

      LillianLexicon97 Member

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      @Lorenzo74 Aw thanks! Here's another one:

      Words fail to capture the feelings inside.
      Blind emotions that still I hide,
      year after year, always with me here.
      Eating away at all that once was dear.
      Dreams, hopes, and aspirations crumble.
      Afterwards I'm left less than humble.
      Yet, my peers of yore are still gay.
      Hear excitement in the words they say.
      They are young, their futures bright.
      I am here, for a future I fight.​
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    4. Lorenzo74

      Lorenzo74 Member Benefactor

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      For the Janis Joplin's lovers...

      I made a poem using most of her song's titles (in within brackets)... :)

      Ode for Janis:

      “Bye Bye Baby”,
      this is your “Farewell song”.
      You used to sing “What good can drinking do",
      making me feel like if I had to.
      You “Little girl blue” came “Down on me”,
      and you helped me to “Move over”.
      “Trust me”, not “All is lonliness”.
      you “Took a piece of my heart”,
      and taught me how “To love somebody”.
      You are like “A flower in the sun”,
      that in “Summertime” opens itself to be admired,
      so were you with your “Kozmic Blues”.
      You were “A woman left lonely”,
      singing “I need a man to love”,
      but having just some “One night stand”.
      Oh god, don't “Cry Baby”,
      “As good as you have been to this world”,
      I will always remember you.
      “Oh, Sweet Mary”, “Women is losers” wasn' t true.
      You made life meaningful,
      and “Get it while you can”
      is still the best philosophy.
      Oh, “My Baby”,
      you didn' t have to “Try just a little bit harder”,
      for “The last time I heard you”,
      I felt like “One good man”.
      Just “Raise your hand” once more,
      and I’Il be there to hold it.
      you didn' t need a “Mercedes Benz”,
      for you just asked for an “Half Moon”
      for “Me and Bobby McGee” to look at.
      Let me be your “Dear Landlord”,
      for I won' t let any “Intruder”
      to steal your “Turtle Blues”.
      And as your “Hesitation Blues”,
      you “Maybe” had some “Trouble in mind”.
      But I will always think of you as an “Easy Rider”,
      always saying to everybody
      " If it Feels good, just do it".
      “Call on me” now,
      and I won' t hesitate.
      “Misery' n is in the air”,
      But when I think of you, Janis,
      Love is all around.
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    5. nills

      nills Member Benefactor

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      Your eyes look so different today

      They have a twinkle I did not see before

      Shining so soft and empty, not looking outward

      Or wanting to see more

      Your hands are moving your feet are walking

      But all at a different pace

      The gentleness of the actions mesmerize me

      Like stroking air, like dancing in grace

      Your silence carries compassion

      and your words convey This peace

      and without any effort

      your Being brings release

      so go about and share That happiness

      show the world that love tastes sweet

      while in my heart, I salute you

      and humbly kiss, your blessed feet
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    6. Kopesy

      Kopesy Member Benefactor

      East Midlands, England, United Kingdom
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      I'll never know
      This Tree

      My branches, they reach
      Leaves spread, catching shine,
      Growing with colours
      Heat of life, take for mine.

      My roots, go deep
      Answers find will I ever,
      Entangled another,
      To love, maybe never.

      My bark, is hardened
      A heart wrapped in amber,
      This sap flows honest, free
      Avoid permanence of anger.

      My crown, comes mind
      Of age are learned to fly,
      To leave the nest on imaginings
      Lest starve, wither, die.

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    7. cullenbohannon

      cullenbohannon Member Benefactor

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      Idon't write any poetry myself but I do like reading it. thanks for sharing all.
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    8. Lorenzo74

      Lorenzo74 Member Benefactor

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      I wrote this at the end of a Vipassana meditation retreat.. :)

      From The Bong to The Gong :

      From the Bong

      To the Gong

      One Way Ticket to Liberation

      Inner Journey to True Celebration

      Where You and I and All Reside

      Where We Don't Have to Hide

      Where as One We All Stand

      Vibrating Energies of Love and Sand...
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    9. Danny Boy

      Danny Boy Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

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      These are some facebook statues I wrote a while ago (5 years ago). Used to do them a lot, but gave up, as nobody cared. Tell me what you think?

      Swept alongside a golden splendour seashore, seashells remained laden in a narrow rounded sea-salt ridden puddle of water, until the late afternoon, when the sun, would fall into a near limitless stars, when the pretty, but rounded seashells, unique in design, would disappear into the the bounty-less ocean, glistening in the sunset with practised bravado, seawater wind whispered 'gone forever'.

      A dead rose ended love as quickly as it started, it was never meant to last, I guess you call it fate, or some odd destiny that god chose for me, all I know is a dead rose was always there when it ended, my heart stopped a beat, I fall into the puddle of cries.

      The almighty, everyone feared felt blue emotions towards hell. Faith remained within it's dead steam, hope, hope for everyone who found it.

      I saw Count Dracula, his hellish eyes reveling, a radiance ablaze with pitch forks of hell gazing into my indigo eyes , boundless emotion struck me, I was feeling fear, fear of blue, hell had an engagement with heaven. I am the victim.

      In the winter haziness of early December, a winter storm shook from the central part of town, in a winter circular blaze, it was like a tornado that could twist our souls and freeze our hearts.

      I am no longer my former-self, that time was an inky black, comparable to a black widows clutches, poison, tainted call it as you may, I dreaded myself in sorrow for my persona wasn't me, now I see the light of angels, I'm touching, acceding to it's enduring light. I am no longer me, I am myself.

      I only ever wanted peace, love wasn't my cup of tea, or in my case my cup of herbal-tea, I struggled to find love, or someone interested in me, I guess I was too boring, or in my world, they were too boring for me, either way, I know it would end in bliss.

      Bless Winter, death and peace entwine, busy-less bodies frail, herbal tea all round. Bless winter, bless us all.

      The spew of blood untailed all over my floor, covering it with the darkish tint of a foul man.

      In a time of industry and congestion, aphotic towers, spined to the nexus of the heavens to whirl it with it's fallen angel, stigma number 8 (Toxic air), filling the heavens with an overcast, that would surely scare any weather man to his skeleton. Humans would timely with no apathetic, destroy the only heaven they knew; Earth.

      The blissful darkness awaited in hibernation for it's next winter-stroke message, it left a shiver with spews of red rose blood.

      The freezing wind froze over my body, winter had came, I wasn't prepared. I would die this winter.

      Oh, gentle, tender, rose-petal, sunlight blessed, the wind guiding you, moonlight, sunlight, the wind always took you, far across the landscapes, heaven wasn’t the sky, it was the howling, only a breeze, the guidance, the jagged mountains, the riversides blessed with water, the trees hidden by shadows, the fluffy clouds amidst, the day ended.

      Feeling like an outsider was always a fateful affair, only the affair wasn't my guilt, it was other people, for they left me, the outsider.

      I realise something's in life, aren't meant to make sense, the puzzle soured in my mind, I could never feel warm again, deep down, I was broken, like a puppeteer strings, faded with time. I knew my fate, destiny was broken, the piano spoke.

      Her mind baffled by recent events in her life lead her to believe that a glamorous death was in-store for her dear husband...She plotted briskly day in day out, watching over his baby-steps. His trail lead to a sleazy motel, with traces of a foul alcoholic stench that lingered as she gingerly grew closer.

      For as much suffering the fate of living in a strange reality, I tumbled upon a mystical creature, that lead me down a path of my dreams: my fears, my happiness and a misty sorrow that could melt a winters day in to a fiery hell. Like a rainbow created in the dark oblivion, the mystical creature lingered 6ft tall with a aroma of coal that filled my heart with fear.

      Life may not seem so great, but there are good people around us every day. Sometimes we choose to ignore the good and go with the bad.

      Down the long road of life lead's something that can either be happiness or sorrow. It's the choices we make in life that defines the person we are, we make who we are!

      Think about this. Life is a rainbow: you get your dark moments, you get your bright moments. Over time you realise, that the bright moments outweigh the dark ones.

      One piece of the world is a cake and the other is a pie. But remember if you eat too much cake, you'd end up like a pie.

      Is feeling down...Feel's like there's nothing more to life than to sit in this four walled room...It's not full of darkness but blue and brightly coloured...My mum's doing of course...I wish I could feel happy, but there's nothing to look forward to...It's funny, I haven't been outside in two weeks, whenever I open the door to someone, I can feel the fresh air hit my face like a punch of reality.

      Still in the boxed room with the four walls, wondering if the darkness will devour the bright blue that circles my room...Still no way out of here, hoping someone will save me...Maybe I've put too much faith in humanity...I will sit and wait for time to pass, maybe someone will take notice of me...

      Just came back from being outside the depths of my gloomy house...It was a pitch-black night that melted my soul. I could not believe how beautiful the darkness was...Shame there were no twinkling stars...

      Would you kindly, darkly, faithfully, embrace the torch of death, engulf it's fiery atonement. Burn me, burn me until I feel the green speckles spark me full of life, until it streams through my veins again...

      I am so lonely, I wish I had someone to see, someone to call, I'm just so lonely, oh yes, so lonely, so lonely tears run down my face, lonely tears, no joy, only sorrow. Now, I feel like death is my only friend, maybe in heaven or hell, I won't be so lonely...Wishing, feeling, bye...

      The darkness was as bleak as a gloomy night, where werewolf's would hide to hunt their pray, I never once felt scared, or night-terrors. This was my happy place.

      We're too young to understand what love is, so please don't drift away, this love is so beautiful, I don't want it to be free, I want it close to my heart, until it's light burns away.

      Cry to remember, life is slow, its all so mellow, lemonade granny made, life was so tender and pillow talk, was in dreams....I cry to remember, every summer, every pillow, every dream, the lemonade granny made, oh, how I miss September...I'll cry to remember.

      Oh, death, death, death....The world is full of death, oh won't you join me and the grim, after all in death, you don't pay tax, come on death is always playful, black is always in, come on, you know you want to die, oh yeah, die, die, come on, I want to die, come on sing it to the top of your lungs until you chock to death, la, la, la, la.

      Don't you find it funny we all praise and love the winter paradise we call 'Christmas'? Yet, for the people with no homes that are on the streets in this winter-chill, they won't only have their blood chilled, while ours boil in the central heating, they will die, this is Christmas, while we eat and praise the death of many people, this is Christmas. So won't you all join me in a toast of death?

      Blood, splatter, teardrops, someone has died and someone tittered. Was it me you, or the rest of the media-originated world? Maybe he died in vain, maybe he couldn't take the bleak paradise, we call the world around us, the world we all had an hand in creating. We shall all parish, the 'Apocalypse' is coming for all our sins! Oh, we shall be cooking tonight! The Four Horsemen are upon us!

      Human beings no longer exist, so we decided to create a reality in which humans still thrived, the dreams, imagination of humanity could not be captured, the very existence faded. Only one enduring memory existed: "Mummy, I love you".

      The restful cottage located in the sleepy hallow village of doorton catered to rags and riches of old. The past retained the cottage, filled with woodlice of old, the cottage was clearly falling apart, bit by bit, piece by piece. The cottage never accepted the modern outlook of new. Tainted by the past the cottage held a formidable secret...Nobody saw it, nobody knew it...Only one saw through it, he was a nobody,the eyes of the cottage knew better, he was the chosen one. The seer.

      It grew nearer with every heart-felt moment, like a heating-beat, it draw nearer to the one it loved, Christmas. So I thrilled the thought of opening my presents, forgetting about the ones I shared it with, I filled the air with lust, as soon as I opened the red lined wrapping, laden with small snow-drops. My eyes awed within my avarice self, a shock struck me, my eyes lessen with excitement started to endure the tearing of my own greed...A black coal laid there.

      Like a sharp, stern, thorn like prick to my dwindled heart, it punctured it like a ballon, puffing out blood, like hot air, I felt vulnerable, my love for him, tarnished any innocence I had... It hurt.

      In war, soliders are like fireflies, they die young in the silence of the night.

      Tear-drops, tear-drops...One day I'd fall in the puddle, that I've created.
    10. Danny Boy

      Danny Boy Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

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      This isn't written by me, but is a really great short-story!

      In this village ringed by jagged mountains, the women give birth to many children.
      Five or six is not uncommon. Just the other day, the wife of the village headman gave birth to her tenth child.
      "And why do you think that is?" the young gellow asks the traveller, looking down at the snow-blanketed village.
      Kaim cocks his head in search of an answer.
      Meanwhile, the young man takes something like a piece of crystal candy from a small leather pouch. He pops it into his mouth and says with a laugh, "Because they die right away."
      "The children?"
      "Uh-huh. Hardly anybody grows up to be an adult. Most kids die after five or six short summers. Look at the village headman's wife; she's lost seven kids already."
      Whether from a genetic problem or a disease endemic to the area, the people of this village have always lived short lives, he says, from way, way back.
      "Now that you mention it," says Kaim, "I haven't seen any old people here."
      "See what I mean? A few decades ago, I'm told, one person lived to be fifty, but people say that's the oldest anyone ever got in the whole history of this village.
      This is why we give birth to lots of kids - give birth to a lot and lose a lot.
      If just one of them lives into adulthood, though, the family line is saved and the village history continues. You see my point?"
      The young man is sixteen, as is his wife.
      Their first child is due to be born any day now - literally today or tomorrow.
      The young man crunches down on the candy in his mouth. "Let's get going," he says, and around his wrists he winds the ropes he uses to pull the sled. He hasn't loaded the sled yet, but dragging it up the steep, snow-covered road is hard work. This, he says, is why the pay is so good.
      Only a few days earlier, he lost his good friend and fellow worker, who had been three years his senior. When Kaim happened along, the young man asked him if he would help by pushing the sled from behind until they cleared the pass. Kaim agreed, and they became an instant team.
      Kaim circles around to the back of the sled and asks,
      "You don't have any animals to pull the sled?"
      "Afraid not," says the young man. "I know it's strange, but our horses and cattle and donkeys all die young. You can spend a lot of money at the town market buying an animal, and it'll keel over before it's done a lick of work. Finally, the best way is for us humans to plow the fields and pull the sleds ourselves."
      The arms with which the young man himself is pulling the sled are massive, and he forges through the road's snowy cover with powerful steps.
      His fellow worker was stronger still, he says. "He taught me how to pull the sled, how to set rabbit traps, how to build a fire... all the skills I need to live, with all the love he would give to a kid brother. Before I knew it, he was gone."
      People here always die suddenly, he says. "They can be perfectly healthy one minute and drop dead the next. No time for suffering. Just like that. No time to call a doctor. Even if a doctor comes, there's nothing he can do."
      "Did your friend die that way?"
      "Uh-huh. He was shoveling the snow that piled up overnight, clearing the road, when he dropped dead. By the time we ran over to help him, he was gone. That's how it always is. Always. That's how they die. Grown-ups, kids... everyone."
      "And you, too, then..."
      "I guess so. Nobody knows when the moment is coming. It might be decades from now, or it could be tomorrow..."
      After this cool pronouncement, the young man turns to look at Kaim and, pointing to his own chests, says with a smile, "Or maybe even now."
      The smile is genuine, without a hint of despair or bitterness toward the cruelty of his fate.
      "Aren't you afraid to die?" Kaim starts to ask him but stops himself. It's a stupid question, he decides, and one that he is not qualified to ask.
      Where could a man burdened with eternal life find appropriate words to speak to a man burdened with the threat of sudden death?
      Kaim and the young man keep dragging the sled up the steep mountain path. Their destination is the lake beyond the pass. The young man's job calls for him to cut ice from the surface of the frozen lake and transport it back to the village.
      "We in the village call the like the 'Spring of Life'.
      If you trace the source of the water that bubbles out of the ground here and there in the village, you will always wind up at the Spring of Life."
      Kaim nods silently.
      "The ice from the Spring of Life takes forever to melt. That's why, look, you can even do this..."
      Again the young man takes a piece of the crystal candy - or, rather, ice - from his leather pouch and puts it in his mouth.
      "It gives you energy. It's indeispensable when doing hard work or for pregnant women or infants. Just put a piece in your mouth and it gives you instant strength."
      The young man offers a piece to Kaim, who nods again in silence.
      "We're really not supposed to give any to outsiders, but you're special 'cause I'm putting you to work. If I give it to you, though, I want you to help me load the ice on the sled. I can handle it by myself on the way back."
      Kaim silently accepts the ice from the young man, who assures him, "It tasts good, too," and watches him, smiling. Kaim averts his gaze somewhat and puts the piece in his mouth.
      The ice should be nothing but frozen water, but it has a mild sweetness.
      Just as Kaim expected.
      He spits it out when the young man is not looking.
      Poison. I know that taste, thinks Kaim.
      The village people are used to this taste, so they think nothing of it. Without a doubt, though, there is poison in the ice.
      The long flow of time smoothes over the wounds inflicted by history. The permanently snow-capped peaks make people forget the existence of the wide world on the other side.
      The young man calls this lake the Spring of Life, but those who lived far beyond the mountains, at the source of the river that feeds the lake, used to know it as the Pit of Death.
      Long, long ago - several hundred years ago - the entire area around the river's source was polluted with the poisonous metallic outflow from a mine.
      The river was filled with dead fish floating belly-up, and the poisonous gas that rose like a mist from the ground killed both the earthbound animals and the birds in the sky.
      The forests withered, and the lively town that had grown up with the development of the mine became a deserted ruin.
      Nature took many years to recover, but the forests eventually turned green again, which attracted small animals and eventually the larger animals that hunted them.
      People, however, never came back, and there was no one left to hand down the story of the tragedy that occurred at the river's source deep in the mountains.
      The only one who knows everything that happened is Kaim, the man who has lived a thousand years.
      The young man stands by the frozen lake and takes a nice, satisfying stretch.
      "You know," he says to the traveller, "I sometimes think this village might be the closest one to Heaven in the whole world. Perhaps it's because we are too close to Heaven that we're all summoned by the gods early on. Don't you think that might be true?"
      Kaim says nothing in response to this.
      Over many years, this lake has accumulated the metallic poison that flowed into it from upstream. And over many years the poison that infiltrated the soil has mingled with the ground water, bubbling up in the spring water with which the villagers slake their thirst.
      No one knows the exact chemical makeup of the poison, but at least it does not cause the villagers to suffer until, at the last moment of their lives, the accumulated poison suddenly takes its toll. This may be its one fortunate aspect. On the other hand, this might simply make the misfortune it brings all the more conspicuous.
      "Still," the young man says as he saws off a piece of ice by the shore,
      "I do hope that the children my wife and I have will be able to live longer lives - say, if we have five, at least one of them will live long enough to grow up and have kids. That way, for me, it would be like finding some meaning in having been born into this world. It was the same for my father and mother, and my grandparents. They all had lots of kids and mourned the loss of lots of kids but managed to raise one or two to adulthood before they died. That's what gives our life meaning."
      He wipes the sweat from his brow and puts another piece of ice candy in his mouth.
      If I were to tell him everything I know, thinks Kaim, if I were to tell him everything that had been buried in the darkness of history, and if he were to tell the other villagers, the tragedy might not have to be repeated.
      The young man says, "When a baby is born here, they ring the village bell. Also when someone dies. The same for both; birth and death are like two sides of the same coin. So there's no sadness when someone dies. Everybody sees them off with a smile and a wish; 'You go ahead of us to Heaven and save a good spot there for us.' Do you understand that sentiment?"
      "I do," says Kaim. "I do."
      "That's how we've always done it; welcoming lots of new lives to the village and sending lots of lives off to Heaven. I've never been much of a student, so I don't know exactly how to put this, but I kind of think maybe 'the village closest to Heaven' is a place where life and death are right next door to each other."
      The young man gives Kaim an embarassed smile at the sound of his own words.
      "Maybe it's because I'm about to have a kid of my own that I'm starting to think about these complicated things."
      "No, that's fine, I see exactly what you mean," Kaim says.
      The moment the words leave his mouth,
      a bell sounds from the foot of the hill -
      several long, slow rings.
      "That's it!" exclaims the young man. "My child has been born!"
      He dips his head and says again, as if savoring the sound of his own words, "My child!"
      While the bell is rung likewise for births and deaths, the young man says, the sound in each case is subtly different. When a young villager learns to tell the two apart, he or she is considered to be an adult.
      "I hope this one lives a long time..." the young man says, choking with the flood of emotions that show on his face, but then he goes on as if to negate his own hopes for the future;
      "Either way, whether it lives a long time or not, my child has now been born into this world. That's all that matters. I'm so happy, so happy..."
      Eyes full of tears, he turns a beatific smile on Kaim.
      And then-
      Still smiling, he collapses where he stands.
      Kaim lays the young man's corpse on the sled and returns to the village.
      As the young man said, the villagers accept his death with the same smiles they had for the birth of his baby.
      Death is not a time for sorrow. It simply marks whether one has been called to Heaven earlier or later.
      the young man's wife takes an ice candy from the leather pouch he has left behind and places it gently into the baby's mouth.
      "I want you to grow up to be strong and healthy," she says.
      "Daddy is saving a wonderful place for you up in Heaven. But go there slowly, slowly... and until you go to Heaven, I want you to grow up here in the village till you're nice and big."
      Her words have the gentle tone of a lullaby.
      Kaim says nothing. If he is to stand unflinchingly for what is right, his silence may be a crime. But, burdened with eternal life, Kaim knows how suspect the "right" can be. Throughout history, people have fought and wounded and killed each other in the name of what they declared to be "right". By comparison, the look on the dead young man's face is tranquility itself.
      The "village closest to Heaven" is filled with happiness indeed.
      The baby starts to cry, its loud wailing like a celebration of the beginning of it's own life, however short that life is likely to be.
      Kaim leaves the village with a smile on his face.
      The village bell begins to peal, reverberating with utter clarity through the distant mountains as if to bestow a blessing on the young man who lived life to the fullest with neither resentment nor regret.
      And when this too-long life of mine draws to a close,
      Kaim thinks,
      I'd like to be sent off with the sounds of bells like this if possible.
      Because he knows that day will never come, Kaim walks on, never stopping, never looking back.
      His long journey is far from over.
    11. Danny Boy

      Danny Boy Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

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      I'm gonna upload a few short-stories, none of them written by me, but I think you'll love them!

      A thousand years can change everything, including the landscape. Queen Ming surveys her capital from the palace window. The panoramic view is like a great history book. The volcano towering in the distance, which used to spew clouds of smoke, went dormant 700 years ago. Once part of the sea, the inlet was reclaimed 500 years ago to become a village for the fisherfolk who spend their lives on the ocean. The River once arched grandly across the landscape, but the deluge that occurred 300 years ago became the occasion for major flood control construction in the form of a perfectly straight channel. Where the river used to curve there is now an oxbow lake in which reeds grow in profusion, and the banks provide people with a rich natural bounty. Even the area that was a barren, rock-strewn wasteland became a vast fruit-bearing garden thanks to the irrigation project that was undertaken 200 years ago.

      The mountain that was the center of the people’s religious faith was enveloped in sky-scorching flames 100 years ago. Formerly swathed in a thick green covering and seen as the home of the gods, the towering peak was transformed into a bare rock pile by a forest fire that burned for three days and three nights. Almost everything that lived in the forest- birds, beasts, of course, but many people too- died in the flames. The people in the village below mourned the horrible transformation of their gods’ abode, but now, a hundred years later, the mountain is as green as ever.

      The people of the village and the people of the mountain still tell the story of the fire, but today’s children can hardly imagine that the rich, green slopes were once charred and blackened. Restored though it is to its original green lushness, of course, the mountain could well be enveloped in flames again- a hundred years from now, two hundred years from now, or even tomorrow. Even if it should be charred bare again, however, trees would sprout anew, the birds and beasts and insects chased away by the fire would return to their homes, and, given enough time, the mountain would be covered in green as before. Such are the workings of nature.

      Given enough time, dizzying stretches of time… But no. To become dizzy at the thought of vast stretches of time is a privilege of the ordinary folk- those who have no choice but to devote all their energies to living in the present. How fortunate that they are able to look back to the past of 1000 years ago like an old man telling a child a fairy tale, “Once upon a time, a long, long time ago…” And how truly fortunate one would be to be able to tell the story of their country’s future as a rosy dream the way children relate their own dreams of the future with flashing eyes, and to entrust that dream to the next reign! Ming stands next to the window like this every morning. It is a special time of day for her, when she thinks about the livelihood of her subjects, watches for signs of enemy intrusions, and ponders measures she might wish to adopt. She has done this every day without fail for the past thousand years. The country has flourished. The people no longer starve as they did when she took the throne.

      Future historians will no doubt sing praises of Ming’s thousand-year reign. She will be extolled as “The Thousand Year Old Queen.” and her noble figure will be vividly engraved in people’s memories. Cherishing these memories of her, however, people will die before she does. The historians who praise her, too, instead of witnessing her reign to its end, will themselves become a part of history. Ming has been a queen for the past thousand years. And probably will be for the next thousand years as well. “Her Majesty is in excellent high spirits again this morning, I trust.” She hears the voice behind her. Her gaze still fixed on the streets of the city below, Ming answers. “You are early today.”

      “Not so early if her majesty is already observing the smoke rising from the cauldrons of her people.” She need not turn to ascertain the identity of the smiling face behind her. It belongs to Nagram, her senior minister. The smile is courtly, genial. But deep within the narrowed eyes, she knows, there resides a dark gleam. “Today, I will accompany Her Majesty in the inspection of the troops.”
      “Yes, owing to a slight change in assignments today.”
      “Is that so?”
      “I am hardly up to the task, but I will do my best if Her Majesty will allow me to serve her in this capacity. I beg her permission.”
      With her back to Nagram, Ming gives a silent nod. ‘’Ah yes’’, she thinks to herself with a bitter smile. Their plan goes into action today. Ming has sensed for a very long time that Nagram is up to no good. He apparently has seized command of certain units of the royal guard. Scattered throughout the city, too, his people are lying low, waiting ready to set fires as soon as his orders come down. No doubt about it: today; when the regular ceremonial inspection of the troops is scheduled to take place, is the perfect day for a coup. When Nagram leaves, Ming enters her office and summons Hannes, the most senior of her ministers, a true elder statesman and her most trusted confidant. Hannes, who sports a luxurious beard, has served Ming for over forty years.

      “Your Majesty, I understand Nagram was here earlier.”
      “Yes, apparently he is to accompany me to the inspection of the troops.” This she has to tell him. Stroking his busy beard, Hannes says, “That means they’ve run out of patience.”
      “I know, replies Ming. “I’m sure they can’t wait to get started.”
      “What a fool Nagram is! He has absolutely no idea that Your Majesty has been letting him set his own trap.”
      “If he were smart enough to realize that, he would be taking at least two more years to make his preparations.”

      Then he would much more power at his disposal. He could link up not just with the royal guard but also the main body of the army and the police force. He could conspire with the external enemies and arrange for them to invade just when the ceremonies were getting underway. Then his coup would probably succeed. If he had the long-range vision to include the wealthy merchant and the intelligentsia among his allies, he might even be able to mount a revolution that would overthrow the monarchy itself. “This is what I would do if I were Nagram. As long as I was undertaking a coup, I would think about that much at least.”

      Hannes’ smile could not hide the fact that all this talk of successful revolution was making him uncomfortable. “Her Majesty is unmatched by any enemy except one- her Majesty Herself!”
      He May be right, Ming thinks. If she had an enemy with an eternal life like hers who was willing to devote all the time needed to planning a revolution- be it a whole century or even two- the result would surely go beyond revolution and develop into a full-scale civil war. Human lives, however, are limited in duration. And because of this limitation, humans rush to achieve results before they are ready. Nagram is one of them. If he could live two hundred years (to say nothing of a thousand), he would not be trying to take up arms at such an in-between point in time.

      “Still,” says Hannes, “I have to admit that Nagram has extended his forces far more successfully than I ever imagined. What have I been doing all this time, I am utterly ashamed of myself.”
      “Don’t let it bother you, Hannes. Thanks to your ‘inattention,’ we will probably be able to smoke out many more rats.” Ming gives a satisfied chuckle. Nor is this mere bravado on her part. They chose not to arrest Nagram at an earlier stage but allowed him to swim free for a while in order to take this opportunity to net the entire force of rebels both inside and outside the palace.

      “Yes, I know,” Hannes replies and goes on to explain the plan for crushing the coup. His plans are impeccable. The coup has virtually no chance of succeeding. All they need to do is carry out a wholesale arrest of the rebel guard units that rise up in the palace and the partisans lurking in the city, and it will be some time before any more individuals with outsized ambitions show up again. “This will be our first purge in fifteen years,” Hannes remarks.
      “Has it been that long?”
      “It certainly has, Your Majesty. This fine beard of mine was jet black last time.”

      Hannes commanded the troops that put down the coup fifteen years ago. Loyal, courageous, and cool-headed, he is the ideal staff officer. Without a doubt, he is one of the very best military advisors Ming has ever had in a thousand years on the throne.
      “How selfish of me, Hannes. I should have let you retire years ago.”
      “That is out of the question, Your Majesty. Serving you is my life. I am deeply honored to have this final opportunity to be of service.”

      True, not even this superb retainer could be with her through all eternity. In another five years- ten at most- Hannes, like other loyal retainers of the past, would be laid to rest to the sound of military cannons. It is always like this. Just as the ambitious ones rush to make their mark because they cannot live forever, the loyal ones in whom she can place her complete confidence stake their very lives on serving her because they cannot live forever. They carve their names in a single line of history and then they depart from Ming for the rest of eternity. Ming herself though, goes on living. Eternal youth. Immortality. So this is the dream of humanity is it? None of them knows the loneliness of eternal life.

      When Hannes next addresses Ming, there is a new urgency in his voice. “About the troops that will quell the uprising… I will command the ones outside the palace. Do I have Her Majesty’s permission to put command of the interior palace guards in the hands of my young protégé, Yan?”
      “Ah yes, Yan…”
      “He may be young, but he is extremely capable. I have nurtured him carefully. I know he will serve Her Majesty Splendidly after this old soldier is gone. I would like to give him the opportunity to distinguish himself in the current situation.” Ming herself is fully aware of Yan’s outstanding qualities. Young as he most certainly is, he far excels the other chamberlains in both the civil and military arts. He is undoubtedly the prime candidate to succeed Hannes as Ming’s top general.

      “What are Her Majesty’s thoughts on the matter?”
      “All right, then, Let him take charge.”
      “Her Majesty has my unbounded thanks! I am sure Yan himself will be deeply moved to learn that he has earned Her Majesty’s confidence.”
      Hannes all but prostrates himself before her, an expression of relief at having obtained Ming’s permission. “But still,” he continues, “Her Majesty has been wary of Nagram for a very long time.”
      “True,” she says.

      “Meanwhile, this old soldier of yours had no idea whatever that Nagram might be planning a rebellion. I am deeply ashamed to confess it now, but to me he seemed the very model of loyalty. How was it that Her Majesty was able to see Nagram’s actual disloyalty?” Ming only smiles without answering his question. “The same thing happened at the time of the coup fifteen years ago,” Hannes continues. “The only reason we were able to suppress the revolt before it even got started was that Her Majesty saw it coming before anyone else. Then as now I was blind to the traitors’ plot.”

      “If you say so Hannes…”
      “Has Her Majesty forgotten?”
      “Well, it was long ago…” Ming tries to evade the issue. There is no way she could have forgotten. The ringleader of the coup fifteen years ago was her most trusted retainer. When she first broached the subject to Hannes and the others, warning them to be on guard against the man, all without exception insisted that he, above all, was beyond reproach. In the end, Ming’s suspicions proved to be correct. She knew. However faithfully he carried out her orders, however warmly he swore his loyalty, she knew. These days however, she has begun to wonder on occasion if that is something to be grateful for.

      The landscape is not the only thing that changes in a thousand years. People’s hearts also change. After numberless meetings and partings over the centuries, Ming has come to realize the fragility- the evanescence of trust. She no longer trusts anything in words. Neither can she fully trust everything in action. She knows by looking at a person’s eyes. That way she can tell everything- to a mysterious and disheartening degree. In the eyes of those that would bring harm to this country, without exception, there is a dark gleam. It is there in all of them: the man plotting a coup, the man secretly involved with foreign enemies, the man fattening his purse with heavy taxes wrung from the people, the female spy who seduces high ministers to extract state secrets, the man who accepts huge bribes from merchants eager for the glory of becoming an official purveyor to the royal household.

      Neither their words nor their deeds give them away. Often, the man himself has no idea of the misdeeds he will later commit. But Ming can tell. Only Ming, who has lived for a thousand years. The silent voices tell her: Be careful of this man. Don’t take your eyes off that woman. This was not the case in her youth. But having repeatedly tasted the bitter experience of betrayal, having been assailed by her own regrets and self-reproach, she has learned to doubt. Ming can see what no one else can- that dark gleam deep in the eyes. This has enabled her to ward off a variety of disasters before they could start. The kingdom has managed to flourish because Ming has more often chosen to doubt than to believe. This is the best course for her to follow as queen. It is however, an infinitely lonely way to live.

      Nagram’s coup collapses in an instant. The rebel units of the royal guard, who draw out their swords against Ming during the inspection of troops in the plaza, become the prey of Yan and his men, who have been hiding around the perimeter. Meanwhile, the anti-rebel forces, under Hannes’ command, pounce on Nagram’s followers, who have been gathering to set fire to the city and arrest them without resistance. Poor Nagram grovels on the earth, begging for his life. To him, Ming says only, “I grant you the right to die with honor.” A soldier lays a sword before Nagram. Wordlessly, Ming conveys to Nagram that it is time for him to take his own life. She turns on her heels and returns to the palace under armed escort.

      This will keep anyone from having thoughts of fomenting a rebellion- for a while, at least. The peace of the kingdom has been preserved, but it will not last forever. When the memory of Nagram’s coup begins to fade- ten years from now, or twenty, or even a hundred- another man with ambition will emerge as has happened many times before. It is the role of the queen to accept this endlessly repeating cycle, Ming tells herself, sighing. Ming is standing at the palace window, surveying the city streets below, when Yan enters the room.

      “Your Majesty, I am here to report that Nagram successfully took his own life a short while ago.”
      “Oh, did he dispatch himself with some dignity?”
      “He did. Traitor though he was, he died in a way befitting a commanding general.”
      “Return his body to his family with all due ceremony.” She turns and stares straight at Yan, whose spine stiffens under the onslaught of her gaze. And then she sees it- without a doubt. That dark gleam flashes deep within his eyes for one fleeting instant. So Yan is another one, is he? she thinks with a bitter smile. Unable to fathom the meaning of her smile, Yan is at a loss for words. “Thank you for all your efforts.” Ming says to him. Suppressing a sigh, she turns to the window again.

      The sky stretches overhead in an expanse of blue. The only thing unchanged for the past thousand years is the blue of that sky. But still, I am the queen, Ming tells herself, meditating on her role. I am the only one who rules this country and maintains the people’s happiness. She gazes long and hard at the sky, rising to her full, proud height.
      “Oh look, it’s Queen Ming!” A little boy in an alleyway below the castle spots Ming and begins waving at her wildly. “Queen Ming! Queen Ming!” A woman, the boy’s mother, no doubt- charges out of a doorway and, bowing humbly to Ming, begins to scold the boy for his rude behavior. Ming herself, however, waves back at him, a placid smile on her face. Smiling joyfully at this unexpected response form Her Majesty the Queen, the boy starts jumping up and down, shouting, “Long live Queen Ming! Long live Queen Ming!”

      Ming stares again into the sky above. Unchanged though it has been for a thousand years, the blue of the sky penetrates more deeply into her eyes and her heart than it ever did in the days of her youth.
    12. Danny Boy

      Danny Boy Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Ear infection
      Old Man Greo was known as the best shoemaker in the country.
      His shoes were light as leather and tough as steel. They were also expensive-- three times higher than anything else on the market. People who did not know his reputation were so shocked to hear what he charged they would say.
      "The old man must be making his shoes for his own amusement!"
      Of course, this was not the case. He had become a craftsman's apprentice at a tender age, and whenever he learned one master's skills he would move on to more talented shoemakers. Before he knew it, he found himself making shoes for the grandchildren of his earliest customers.
      Greo was such a skilled craftsman, he could make any kind of shoe the customer ordered, but he was best at, and most enjoyed making, thick-soled traveling shoes.
      All his customers agreed. "Once you've traveled in Old Man Greo's shoes, you can't wear anybody else's."
      Some would say. "You know what it's like to wear his shoes? You don't get tired the same way. You just want to keep walking-- as long and as far as you can. You almost hate to get where you're going."
      True craftsman that he was though, Old Man Greo rarely talked to his customers, and he could be downright unfriendly. Complimented on his work, he wouldn't so much as smile. Instead, he would put another piece of tanned leather on his wooden shoe last and start hammering away.
      The only time the old fellow would crack even the slightest smile was when a customer visited his workshop to place an order.
      Not that he was ever thrilled to get an order. What he most enjoyed was when a customer brought him a pair of shoes that had outlived its usefulness. He would stare lovingly at the worn-down soles and the disintegrating uppers, and he would actually tale to them!
      "You've done some good traveling, I see..."
      His regular customers would never dispose of their old shoes themselves because they knew how much he enjoyed this. Neither would they do anything so foolish as to clean the shoes before handing them over to the old man. He wanted them straight from the road--covered with dirt, oil-stained, and stinking of sweat.
      "These fellows are my stand-ins." he would say, choosing an honored place for them in his storehouse.
      "They take my place on the road, you know. They've done their job. I hate to throw them away just because they're no good anymore."
      Proud craftsman though he was, Old Man Greo never wore his own shoes.
      He couldn't have worn them even if he had wanted to.
      His legs were gone from the knees down.
      A terrible illness had attacked his bones when he was very young, and the legs had been amputated to save his life.
      The old man had lived his long life in a wheelchair. He had never once left his native village.
      This was what he meant when he said that his shoes did the traveling for him.
      "Haven't seen you for a while."
      Old Man Greo says without looking up from his work as Kaim steps across the threshold. His back is toward the door, but he can tell from the sound of the footsteps when a regular customer has entered his shop.
      "You crossed the desert?"
      the sound tells him how worn down the shoes are, and where they have been. Old Man Greo is a craftsman of the first order.
      "It was a terrible trip."
      Kaim says with a grim smile, setting on a chair in the corner of the shop. When old Greo is in the final stages of shoemaking, almost nothing can make him stop work, as all his regular customers know.
      "Were my shoes any good on this one?"
      "They were great! I couldn't have done it with anyone else's."
      "That's good."
      The old man doesn't sound the least bit pleased, which is to be expected.
      Greo is especially curt when he is working. If Kaim wants to see the old man smile, he will have to wait a little until he hands Greo his old shoes during a work break.
      "Here to order new ones?"
      "Where to this time?"
      "Up north, most likely."
      "Ocean? Mountains?"
      "Probably waling along the shore."
      "To fight?"
      Old Man Greo signals his understanding with a quick nod. He says nothing for awhile.
      The only sound in the workshop comes from Greo's wooden mallet.
      Kaim is move to hear it. Like old times.
      He has ordered any number of shoes here. Even before the old man took over the shop.
      Kaim is one of Old Man Greo's oldest customers. In other words, he is one of the few who have survived repeated journeys.
      Swinging his mallet and speaking in short snatches, the old man tells Kaim about the deaths of some of his regular customers. Some fell ill and died on the road. others lost their lives in accidents. And not a few were killed in battle...
      "It's hard when only the shoes come back."
      Kaim nods in silence.
      "One young fellow died a few weeks ago. He was wearing the first pair of shoes I ever made for him. The soles were hardly worn at all."
      "Tell me about him."
      "You know, you hear it all the time. Leaves his home town, wants to live someplace exciting, parents try to stop him but he goes anyway."
      "Tim surprised he could afford shoes from you."
      "the parents bought them. Sad, isn't it? They give their boy all this love and care, and he's barely out of childhood when he says he's going to leave home. They finally give up and decide to let him go. They figure they can at least give him a pair of my shoes as a going-away present. Less than a month later he comes back as a corpse. I don't know parents nowadays, they spoil their kids rotten. It's so damned stupid," Greo snarls.
      Kaim knows that the old man's feelings go deeper than that. Old Man Greo is the kind of craftsman who would rush to make new shoes for the funeral of a sad young man who had breathed his last while his dream was only half-finished. He would pit them on the young man's feet in the coffin and pray that he would be able to go all the way on this final journey.
      Greo falls silent again and wields his mallet.
      Kaim notices how bent and shriveled the old man has become.
      He has known him a long, long time. Those days will be ending soon enough, Kaim thinks with an ache in his chest.
      Old Greo finally reaches a point in his work where he can turn and face his customer.
      "It's good to have you back, Kaim."
      His face is covered with wrinkles. Kaim realizes anew how old he has become.
      "Where did you say you were traveling?"
      "The desert." "Right. I think you told me that before."
      Kaim shakes his head. The old man seems to lose his powers of concentration when he isn't working, and his memory is shaky sometimes.
      Little by little--but unmistakably--old Greo is spending more time drifting in the space between dream and reality. People grow old and die. The truth of this all-too-obvious destiny strikes Kaim with special force whenever he completes a long journey.
      "So, you survived this one, too, I see."
      Kaim looks at him with a strained smile.
      "Have you forgotten? I can't die."
      "Oh, I guess I knew that..."
      "And I never get old. I look just like I did the first time you met me, don't I?"
      The old man looks momentarily stunned. "Oh, I guess I knew that, too..." he says, nodding uncertainly.
      "Sure, you were a kid then. You had just had that sickness and lost your legs and were crying all day long."
      "That's right... I remember..."
      "Yo uused to call me Big Brother Kaim and play with my old shoes. Do you remember?"
      "Yes, of course."
      Greo speaks with certainty now. Either the fog has cleared or the distant memory has come back with special clarity because it comes from so long ago.
      "The soles were worn down, there were soles here and there, and they had a sour stink of mud and sweat.
      To other people, they must have looked like plain old shoes ready for the garbage, but to me they were a treasure.
      I remember running my finger through the coat of road dust that covered them and trying to imagine where they had been. I enjoyed them so much! I really enjoyed them!"
      Kaim's shoes were what got old Greo started as a shoemaker.
      "It was all thanks to you, Kaim. If I hadn't met you, I would have spent my life cursing my fate. Instead, I've been happy. I'm happy now. even if I can't leave this workshop, my sons can travel for me. I've had a happy life."
      He pauses. "Well, now, will you listen to me talking up a storm!" Greo says with an embarrassed smile. He extends a thick hand to Kaim.
      "All right now, give me my sons,"he says, and Kaim hands him the worn-out old shoes he has brought with him.
      The old man strokes them fondly and says with a sigh. "You've been through many a battle."
      "I was a mercenary, too, for a time."
      "I know that," says Greo. "I can smell the blood.
      All the shoes that travel with you are like this."
      "Are you angry?"
      "Not at all. I'm just glad you came back from this latest trip in one piece."
      "I'll be leaving again as soon as you make me new ones." "Another once of those trips? To war?"
      "And when that journey ends, you'll leave on another one?"
      "How long can you keep it up?"
      Kaim's only answer is a grim smile. Forever. This is not a word to speak lightly in the presence of someone who has lived what little time he has to the fullest.
      "Oh, well, never mind," the old man says, turning his back on Kaim to continue his work.
      "Wait three days. You can leave the morning of the fourth day."
      "That will be fine."
      "when will me meet next after that?"
      "Two years, maybe. Three? It could be a little longer."
      "Really? Well, then, this could be the last pair of shoes I ever make for you."
      Kaim believes it will be. The old man is not likely to last three more years. Kaim fervently wishes it were not so, but wishing by itself can do nothing.
      Only those who possess eternal life know that this is precisely why the time a person lives is so irreplaceably precious.
      "Say, Kaim..."
      "What's that?"
      "Mind if I make a second pair of shoes out of the same puece of leather to match your new ones?"
      they will be for himself, he explains, to be placed in his coffin for his life's final journey.
      "I'd like that," answers Kaim. The old man swings his mallet instead of thanking him. The sound is far sadder and lonelier than usual.
      "Come to think of it, though, Kaim, be sure to come back to this town even after I'm dead. Offer up your old shoes at my grave."
      "I will."
      "I'd like to say I'll be going to heaven a step ahead of you and waiting for you there, but in your case it doesn't work."
      "No, unfortunately."
      "What's it like, an endless journey? Happy? Unhappy?"
      "Probably unhappy." Kaim replies, but his voice is drowned out in the rising sound of Greo's mallet until it is lost even to his own ears.
      Old man Greo reached the end of his full span of years soon after Kaim's visit to his shop.
      Because Greo had no family, his grave in the cemetery at the edge of town was cared for by his many sons. In accordance with his wishes, his regular customers offered up their old shoes at his grave.
      Kaim's shoes were among them.
      The words inscribed on his gravestone were chosen by Greo himself.
      He explained his choice to Kaim this way: "I would say the words to each new pair of shoes before I handed them to the customer. I always said them to the customer, too. I never once had the experience, though, of hearing someone say the words to me.
      That's why I want them on my gravestone.
      These are the words I want to be seen off with on my journey to heaven."
      Several decades flow by.
      Not only Old Man Greo but all the customers who knew him have long since departed the world.
      The only one who still comes to pay his respects is Kaim.
      He no longer wears shoes that were crafted by the old man. Like the life of man, the life of a pair of shoes cannot be eternal.
      Still, Kaim comes to the town at the beginning of every journey, touching his forehead to the ground at the old man's grave.
      The gravestone is covered with moss, but the words engraved on it, strangely enough, are still clearly legible.
      "May your journey be a good one!"
      These were the words the old man always spoke.
      Coming from his mouth they could be brusque, but they were always charged with feeling.
    13. Danny Boy

      Danny Boy Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Ear infection
      "The bright rain is going to start soon." The boy says, pointing out to sea.
      "The bright rain?" Kaim asks him.
      "Uh-huh. It happens every night, way out there." he says with a carefree smile.
      "It's so pretty!"
      "Bright rain, huh?"
      "Yeah. I want you to watch it with me tonight. It's really pretty."
      The boy has never once left the island in the ten years since his birth.
      The island is small and poor, and the only ways to make a living there are fishing from dugout boats and gathering forest fruits. One monotonous day follows another, the islanders waking at dawn and sleeping beneath the star-filled sky. The boy does not yet realize that this is the greatest happiness of all.
      The boy begins speaking to Kaim, who turns to look in his direction.
      Hunkered down on the beach in the moonlight, the boy in profile glows like a chocolate sculpture.
      "Over there, where the bright rain falls, is a great, big island, right? I know all about it. That island is way bigger than this one and way more stuff goes on there and it's just full of shiny things and pretty things and food that's way better than I can even imagine, right? Don't worry, I know all about it"
      Kaim says nothing but gives the boy pained smile.
      Beyond the horizon lies a big island, indeed - a vast continent. Kaim was there until four days ago. Then, rocked in the hold of a freighter for three days and nights, he crossed the sea to this island.
      "I know about it, but I've never seen it." the boy says, his voice dropping.
      He hangs his head, diverting the moonlight from his face. His chocolate skin melts into the darkness.
      "Would you like to go there?" Kaim asks.
      "Sure I would." the boy replies without hesitation. "All the kids here want to."
      "Everybody leaves the island, I suppose."
      "Sure they do! Boys and girls both. As soon as they're old enough to work, they go to the 'other country.' Me, too, in another five years... I'll be ready in three years. Then I'll take the boat that you came here on and go to the other country and work hard and eat tons of yummy things."
      The boy raises his face again.
      Locked on the ocean, his eyes are shining.
      They are eyes full of hopes and dreams.
      But they know nothing of the 'other country'. He can never know a thing about it as long as he stays here.
      Not one of the young people who crossed the sea, their eyes shining like the boy's with hopes and dreams, ever came back.
      "Of course not." the boy would say. "The other country is so much more fun, there's no point in coming back!"
      The boy believes in the happiness awaiting him in the other country. about which he knows nothing.
      Only when they leave the island do the brown-skinned people here learn that their skin is a different color from that of the people in the other country.
      That the language of the island is of no use in the other country.
      That the people of the other country look on the islanders with cold eyes.
      That the only way for them to meet people with the same brown skin, the same language, and the same birthplace is to head for the island people's ghetto in town.
      The first words the boy was certain to learn in the other country's language would be the ones the people of the other country used for people like him; illegal alien.
      By the time he learned it, he would be tumbling down the hill in the ghetto.
      The boy gallops away from the beach and returns a few minutes later with an overflowing armload of fruit. He says they grow where the wind from the ocean meets the wind from the mountains.
      "They're at their best on nights when the moon is full. Go ahead - have a taste."
      He wipes a piece of fruit against his worn-out shirt and hands it to Kaim.
      "What do you call this?" Kaim asks.
      "You're going to laugh, they pinned such a fancy name on it: 'Grain of Happiness'."
      "That's a nice name."
      Kaim bites into a Grain of Happiness. It is shaped like an apple from the other country. But it is some two sizes smaller and just that much more packed with juicy sweetness.
      "This is great." Kaim says.
      "You really like it? I'm glad." the boy says with smile, but he is soon hanging his head again and sighing.
      "I like them a lot too." the boy says, "but I bet the other country has all kinds of stuff that's way better than this, right?"
      Kaim does not answer him but takes another bite of a Grain of Happiness.
      The boy is right: there are lots of foods in the other country far more delicious than these Grains of Happiness.
      Or, more precisely, there were.
      Now, however, the other country has been transformed into a battlefield.
      The war started six months ago.
      That was when the boy began seeing the 'bright rain' every night.
      The prosperity of the "other country" is extreme. The most glittering happiness is available there to anyone with enough money, and money is available there without restriction to anyone with enough power.
      Might makes right.
      Wealth makes goodness.
      Those who are neither mighty nor wealthy obtain right and goodness by finding others who are both weaker and poorer than themselves and ridiculing, despising and persecuting them.
      The island people, whose language and skin color are different from those in the other country, are seen as the other country's shadow.
      This is not a shadow, however, that forms because there is light.
      The very existence of the shadow is what makes the light all the brighter.
      This is the only way that inhabitants of the other country know how to think about things.
      Eventually, however, strength reaches a saturation point, wealth that has run its course begins to stagnate, and expansion is the only course left open.
      Desires can only be fulfilled through a continual bloating.
      In order for the other country to remain strong and for the wealthy to stay wealthy, the leaders of the other country made war on a neighboring country.
      "Any minute now." the boy says, looking out to sea again with a carefree laugh.
      "The bright rain is going to fall, way out over the sea."
      The war was supposed to have ended quickly. Everyone in the other country believed that with overwhelming wealth and strength, it would be easy for them to bring the neighboring country to its knees.
      To be sure, at first war went according to plan. The occupied areas grew each day, and the entire populace of the other country became drunk with victory.
      One after another, however, the surrounding countries took the side of the neighboring country. Which was only natural. For if the neighboring country fell, they themselves might be the other country's next target.
      The other country's entire diplomatic strategy failed. Which was only natural. For no country on earth will make friends with a country that only knows how to flaunt its wealth and power.
      An allied force was organized around the neighboring country. Together, the surrounding countries sought to encircle and seal off the other country.
      From that point on, the war entered stalemate. Limited battle zones saw troops advancing and retreating again and again, in the course of which the other country's wealth and power was consumed little by little. Disgust for war began to spread among the populace, and to obliterate that mood, the military circulated false propaganda:
      The military situation is developeng in our favor.
      Our army has again crushed the enemy's troops.
      The truth was that the occupied territories were being recaptured one after another, and the allied forces now were crossing the border to strike inside the other country's territory.
      I'n response to foolhardy attack by the enemy, our resolute fighting men launched a counterattack, annihilating their forces.
      The day for our victory song is upon us.
      Stopping war was out of the question. Admitting defeat was out of the question. The people had believed that wealth and power would enable them to rule everything, but now they knew the terror of having lost both.
      The allied forces were joined by a powerful supporter. A mighty empire that wielded authority over the northern part of the continent joined the battle as if to say, "Let us finish job for you," crushing the other country once and for all.
      But the powerful empire was not satisfied just to destroy one upstart nation. It turned its overwhelming military might upon the allied forces. As it had so many times in its history, it seized the opportunity of its clash with the surrounding countries in order to further expand its own power.
      Having lost its leaders and turned into a wasteland as far as the eye could see, the other country now became the new battlefield.
      Outnumbered, the allied army hired mercenaries from other continents.
      Kaim was one of those.
      For many days he participated in losing battles in which there was no way to tell which side was fighting for the right.
      After seeing his mercenary unit wiped out, Kaim headed for the harbor.
      The boy's island has maintained a position of neutrality in the war. It is simply too small to do otherwise. It lacks the war-making capacity to participate in battle, and it possesses no wealth to attract the attention of the countries engaged in the fighting.
      But Kaim knows what will happen.
      When the battle lines expand, this island will become valuable as a military foothold. One side or the other will occupy the island and it will do one of two things; it will construct a base, or it will reduce the entire island to ashes, thus preventing the enemy from using it as a military foothold. Nor is this a matter of the distant future. At the latest, it will happen a few weeks from now, and perhaps as soon as two or three days...
      Kaim has come to island to convey this message.
      To tell the people that as many of them as possible should board tomorrow morning's regular ferry to the nearby island.
      He wants them to start by sending away the children.
      He wants never again to witness the spectacle of young lives being crushed like bugs.
      "Oh, look! There it goes" the boy cries out happily, pointing toward the horizon.
      "The bright rain!"
      Far out to sea, a white glow suffuses the night sky. The powerful empire has begun its night bombing.
      The boy has no idea what the bright rain really is. He can watch with sparkling eyes and murmur, "It's so pretty, so pretty..."
      To be sure, viewed from afar, the bright rain is genuinely beautiful, like a million shooting stars crossing the sky all at once.
      But only when viewed from afar.
      A dull thud resounds from the sky.
      Another dull thud, and another and another.
      "Thunder? Oh, no, if it rains we can't go out fishing tomorrow." the boy says with a smile and a shrug.
      He's such a friendly little fellow, thinks Kaim.
      The boy had seen him on the shore and spoken to him without hesitation.
      "Are you a traveller?" he had asked, and went on speaking to him like an old friend.
      Kaim wants children like this to be the first aboard tomorrow's ferry.
      "I'm going home now." says the boy. "What are you going to do?"
      "Oh, I guess I'll take a nap under a tree."
      "You can sleep in our barn. Why don't you spend the night there?"
      "Thanks," Kaim says. "But I want to watch the ocean a little longer. Tomorrow, I thought, I'd like you to show me around."
      "I get it. You want to see the head of the village. I know a shortcut through the woods - right over there." Kaim is hoping to convince the village head to evacuate the island. If they act right away, they can make it. They can save a lot of the islanders.
      As the boy stands, sweeping the sand from the seat of his pants, he looks questioningly at the sky.
      "Funny." he says, "It sounds kind of different from thunder."
      The dull thuds keep coming without a break.
      Little by little, they draw closer.
      Kaim jerks his head up and yells at the boy, "The woods! Run to the woods!"
      His voice is drowned out by the deafening roar of the machine guns.
      The bright rain has started.
      The island has been made a target far sooner than Kaim had imagined.
      "Hurry!" Kaim yells, grabbing the boy's hand.
      The woods are the boy's only hope.
      "Hey, wait a minute!" the boy shouts, shaking free of Kaim's grip and looking up at the sky.
      "It's the bright rain! It's falling here now, too! Wow! Oh, wow!"
      All but dancing for joy, the boy gallops down the beach - until he is bathed from head to toe in the bright rain.
      A single night of bombing is all it takes to reduce the island to ashes.
      Never realizing the value of the happiness they possessed, never even knowing that such happiness has been snatched away from them in one night's passing, the people who filled the island with their lives until evening are gone in the morning, all dead except one: the immortal Kaim.
      On the beach at dawn, the only sound is that of the waves.
      Again today, no doubt, urban warfare will decimate the city streets, and tonight the bright rain will pour down on the town again.
      The boy who called the rain beautiful will never again open his eyes wide with wonder.
      Kaim lays the boy's corpse in a small dugout canoe that survived the flames.
      He places a ripe "Grain of Happiness" on the boy's chest and folds his arm over it, hoping that it will sate his thirst on the long road to heaven.
      He sets the dugout in the water and nudges it toward the open sea.
      Caught by the receding tide, rocketed by the waves, the boat glides far out from the shore.
      Such a friendly little fellow, the boy smiles even in death. Perhaps it is the one gift the gods were able to bestow on him.
      The boy is setting out on a journey.
      May it never take him to that other country, Kaim begs.
      Or any other country, for that matter.
      Kaim knows; there is no place forever free of that bright rain.
      Because he knows this, he sheds tears for the boy.
      The rain falls in his heart: cold, sad, silent rain.
      Emptied of bombs, the sky is maddeningly blue, wide and beautiful.
    14. Danny Boy

      Danny Boy Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Ear infection
      The mother stands by the island pier, waiting for her son.
      Her luggage is bigger than she is. Dressed in her finest traveling clothes, she seems hardly able to contain her excitement as she speaks to Kaim, who happens to be waiting for the same boat to arrive.
      "I got a letter from him," she says.
      Almost thirty years have passed since her only son left the island of his birth. There was no word from him in all that time until he recently wrote announcing his successes and his plan to bring her to mainland.
      "I've been alone ever since I lost my husband, so just to think I might be able to spend the rest of my life with my son, his wife and my grandchildren..."
      She sold the house she had always lived in and has been waiting for her son to come for her.
      The letter arrived over a week ago.
      "I wonder why it's taking him so long. The seas are calm."
      Kaim arrived here on yesterday's ferry.
      "You mean he's late?" Kaim asks with some surprise.
      "Very," she replies, forcing a smile. "I wonder what's wrong. Maybe he got busy all of a sudden and can't pull himself away from his work."
      "He hasn't written again to explain?"
      "He's never bothered with things like that, not since he was a child," she says, straining to smile again and glancing toward the horizon.
      No bigger than a dot at first, the boat is now big enough for a clear view of the mast in silhouette.
      "Anyhow, I'm not worried. I know he'll be on this boat," she says, raising herself from the clockside crate on which she is sitting and waving a handkerchief toward the approaching vessel.
      Kaim also stares hard at the boat, which gives his eyes a stern expression.
      "Young man?"
      At the sound of the mother's voice, Kaim hastens to soften his gaze before turning toward her.
      "You are a traveler, aren't you?"
      "That's right," he says.
      "I saw you arrive on yesterday's ferry. Are you leaving so soon?"
      She is obviously curious about this stranger, but her face shows no wariness toward outsiders.
      Relieved to see this, Kaim replies, "I'm doing the same thing you are - waiting for someone to arrive."
      "On this boat?"
      "Yes, probably."
      "You haven't been in touch with this person?"
      "No, we haven't agreed on a time. I might be waiting for nothing, too."
      "Oh, really?"
      Kaim evades further questioning with a strained smile.
      This is not something he can discuss with just anyone.
      He is on a secret mission - one that must not fail.
      The woman still wears a look of puzzlement, but their conversation is swallowed up in the general hubbub on shore, accompanying the approach of the boat.
      At last the ferry arrives.
      One by one passengers alight after their half-day trip from the capital on mainland.
      Clutching the handkerchief to her breast, the mother scans each of them.
      There are peddlers who travel from island to island hawking their wares, and men who have come to do larger-scale trading; sunburned young men and women who arrive from the mainland in groups to work on the island's farms, and men coming home to the island after a season of labor on the mainland.
      None of the dozens of passengers, however, is the woman's son.
      Once it has disgorged its island-bound passengers, the ferry takes on people crossing to the mainland. Greeters on the pier give way to well-wishers.
      The mother turns her back on the pier's hustle and bustle and plods her way toward the town. She hoists a heavy pack onto her back and lifts a large suitcase in each hand, but she has taken only a few steps when the pack begins to slide off.
      Kaim reaches out to keep it from falling.
      The woman turns with a look of surprise, and when she realizes that Kaim is alone, she asks,
      "So your person didn't come, either?"
      "Looks that way."
      With only one ferry a day from the mainland, all they can do is wait until tomorrow.
      "Are you going to stay on the island until your friend comes?"
      "I might have to..."
      "You could run up quite a hotel bill that way."
      "I'm all right. I'm used to camping out."
      "Camping out?" she exclaims with a look of amazement.
      Then she smiles and says,
      "Oh, well, you're young, and in good condition. A few days sleeping outdoors shouldn't be too hard on you."
      "What are you going to do, Ma'am? Go back home?"
      "I wish I could. I sold my house last week. I was so sure my son would come and get me right away."
      A hint of discouragement clouds her face, but she quickly recovers her smile and continues,
      "The money I got for the house is a nice little bundle, so I've decided to spend freely for a change. See that large hotel over there? I'm staying in their biggest room and taking it easy all day and all night, too. I'm disappointed when he doesn't show up, of course, but I've worked my fingers to the bone all these years. It won't hurt me to indulge myself just this little bit."
      Though delivered with a smile, her words touched Kaim deeply.
      In her case, "Worked my fingers to the bone" is not just a figure of speech, as evidenced by her suntanned face, which is so unsuited to the cosmetics she had applied to greet her son, and especially by her bony fingers, so ill-concealed by the cheap rings she is wearing.
      Hard s she undoubtedly worked, life has granted her few rewards. There is nothing expensive about her luggage.
      "I'm sure your son will be here tomorrow," Kaim says.
      Her deeply wrinkled face breaks into a joyous smile.
      "Yes, of course, tomorrow for sure," she says with a deep nod.
      "I hope the person you are waiting for comes on tomorrow's boat, too."
      "Thank you very much," he replies.
      "I have an idea," she says. "You might get sick camping out. If you'd like, why not stay in my hotel? I'm sure we could arrange something for one extra person."
      Kaim senses that she is not suggesting this out of mere politeness, which is precisely why he demurs with a smile and a nod.
      "Thanks just the same," he says, "but don't worry about me. Just take the rest you deserve after all your long years of hard work."
      "If you say so..." She seems somewhat disappointed but does not press him to accept.
      As he watches her trudge off toward her hotel alone, all but hidden from view by her huge bundles, Kaim wonders if, perhaps, she was hoping that his company might ease her concern that her son might not show up after all.
      Even so, he decides not to chase after her and retract his refusal. He is the wrong man to spend time with a mother whose only dream is to have a happy old age.
      Most likely, when tomorrow's boat arrives, she will finally be reunited with the son she has longed to see all these years.
      The person that Kaim is waiting for will also most certainly cross over to the island tomorrow.
      The mother will undoubtedly shed great tears when her reunion takes place.
      Kaim, on the other hand, has a bloody job to perform when he encounters the man he's waiting for.
      Kaim has been hunting him. The man is a fugitive, and there is a reward on his head.
      He is known as the boss of an underworld gang in the capital, and he has committed crimes without number - robbery, fraud, extortion, assault, and even murder. To cap his life of crime, he double-crossed his own gang and ran off with a great deal of money. Word reached the gang only a few days ago that the man is headed for this island, the place of his birth, and they hired Kaim to take care of him.
      The fact that they hired Kaim means they are ready to have him killed on sight.
      Kaim and the mother meet at the dock again the next day at the same time.
      And again the next day,
      and the next,
      and the day after that.
      The ones they are waiting for never come.
      A week goes by.
      The mother switches accommodations from her expensive hotel to a cheap inn frequented by traveling peddlers.
      "Actually, I'm more comfortable in a cheap place like this," she tells Kaim with a laugh, but more than likely her money would have run out in the first hotel.
      "Your person is very late, too," she observes.
      "Who is it?"
      He sidesteps the issue with a strained smile.
      He cannot answer her question if he is going to carry out his duty.
      And besides, he feels a tiny premonition deep inside.
      The mother stops questioning him and says, "I hope your person comes soon."
      Another three days go by.
      A messenger from the gang, disguised as a peddler, whispers to Kaim as he steps off the ferry,
      "We think he's still hiding in the capital. We're looking in every rat hole we can find, but there's no sign of him."
      Kaim nods silently and glances at the boat.
      Even after the last passenger alights, the mother stands on the pier, looking up at the boat's empty deck.
      "Let me ask you, young man..." the mother says to Kaim three days later.
      "Does the place where you're camping out have a roof to keep the dew off?"
      Kaim has been sleeping in a dilapidated old house he found near the harbor.
      "All I need is a place to sleep," she says. "Would you mind if I joined you there?"
      "What's that?"
      "The place I'm staying at now is not much better than a ruin. I'm sure I'd be fine wherever you're staying. Yes, I'm sure I'd be fine."
      She smiles like a child who has found a new source of mischief.
      Kaim does not refuse her.
      More precisely, he cannot refuse her.
      She has probably run out of money even to stay in her current flophouse.
      Kaim has noticed her cheap rings gradually disappearing from her bony fingers.
      As they pass the night in the abandoned building, the moon their only source of light, the mother, without prompting from Kaim, spills out her memories of her son.
      They are by no means pleasant memories. Known as a roughneck even from his earliest years, the boy was hated by all the neighbors and caused his parents a good deal of shame.
      "He would steal our money, stay out all night partying, and before we knew it he was the number one thug on the island. He was always getting into fights and bothering girls. During the island's annual festival he would go wild and destroy property, so my husband and I would have to go around apologizing to everyone."
      The father, a skilled stonemason, lost his job when the son stole valuables from the boss's house.
      The mother could hardly walk down the street without being subjected to the glares and finger-pointing of the neighbors. Things got especailly bad after her son set fire to the island assembly hall just for fun.
      His parents raised him badly, the boy's misbehavior is the parents' responsibility, the son has bas became such a thug because his mother spoiled him rotten, it's the parents' fault, the father's fault, the mother's fault, your fault.
      They had heard it all.
      "It was so hard for us on a little island like this! There was no place we could hide."
      The boy was eighteen when he finally ran away from home - or rather, left the island when his parents all but disowned him.
      The other islanders rejoiced as if a plague had been lifted. One man went so far as to deliberately let the parents overhear him declaring, "I hope that bastard goes to the capital and dies in the gutter."
      The boy's father died five years ago.
      To the very end, he would not forgive his son, and in his final delirium, he was still apologizing to the islanders.
      "But still, to a mother, any son is the baby she once carried. I never heard a word from him, but I went on praying that he would stay healthy in the capital, that he wouldn't catch whatever epidemic was going around, that he wouldn't get into fights. But that's just me, I guess."
      She gives Kaim a bitter smile.
      "Or maybe it's just me being a mother," she adds.
      "You have parents too, I suppose? Of course you do! Everyone has parents!
      "Are your father and mother alive and well?"
      Kaim bows his head in silence.
      On a journey with no clear beginning and no definable end, Kaim is unable to answer a question like this.
      Instead, he asks the woman,
      "What is the first thing you'll say when you finally get to meet your son?"
      "Good question," says the mother. After thinking it over a few moments, she replies, "I won't actually say anything. I think I'll just hug him and say nothing at all. I'll hold him tight and let him know how glad I am he's alive and well."
      "Just supposing though," Kaim presses her gently, "if you knew that he had lived a less than exemplary life in the capital, too, would you still give him a hug?"
      Her response is instantaneous.
      "First I'd huge him, and then I'd give him a good talking to!"
      She smiles shyly at Kaim and adds,
      "That's what being a parent is all about."
      The next morning she runs a high fever. She may have survived the dew, but a night in the dilapidated building has taken a toll on the old woman's health.
      Even so, when it is time for the ferry to arrive, she struggles to her feet and heads toward the pier with uncertain steps.
      Alarmed, Kaim holds her back.
      "You're in no shape to be going out," he says.
      Despite his attempts to bring down her fever with cool spring water from the forest, it is as high as ever. Her labored breathing has taken on a congested rumbling.
      "I have to go," she insists. "My son is coming for me. I'm going to see him..."
      She sweeps away Kaim's restraining hand, but the effort causes her to lose her balance and sink to her knees.
      "If he's on board, I'll bring him here," Kaim assures her. "Tell me how I can recognize him."
      Cradled in Kaim's arms, half-delirious with fever, the wold woman mutters,
      "On his left cheek... before he left the island...he got in a fight...somebody cut him...he has a scar..."
      Kaim nods and lowers the old woman to a straw mat spread on the ground.
      He fights back with a sigh and closes his eyes momentarily, then he stares hard through a small window at the ferry dock.
      His suspicions were right after all, though he was sure of it last night.
      Kaim was given a written description of the man when he took on the assignment from the gang.
      There could be no doubt: "Scar on left cheek."
      The ferry is approaching the harbor.
      The pier is showing signs of activity.
      Kaim starts for the door.
      Behind him, he hears the woman staying,
      "Please...don't kill him...don't kill my boy..."
      Kaim stops short, but instead of turning around, he bites his lip.
      "I don't know what he did...in the capital...but don't kill him... please..."
      So she knows, too.
      She knows everything.
      "If you have to kill him...if you absolutely have to...please, before you do it...let me just..."
      Kaim leaves the run in silence.
      His steps are uncertain as he makes his way into the blinding glare of the afternoon sun.
      This time the man is there.
      Trying to lose himself among the traveling peddlers, the man with a price on his head and the scar on his left cheek steps down to the pier.
      He is fare more emaciated than Kaim's written description would have led him to believe. No doubt he is exhausted from his years as a fugitive. Still, he has fulfilled his promise to his mother by coming back to the island of his birth.
      His eyes dart fearfully over the pier.
      His expression changes from that of a man searching for someone to the panicked look of a child who has become separated from his parent.
      Kaim slowly plants himself in front of him.
      The man knows nothing of Kaim's mission, of course, and has never met him before.
      But he has the instincts of an inhabitant of the back alleys. His face freezes, and he turns to flee.
      Kaim grabs him by the shoulder - but lightly, in a way that would make an onlooker think he was witnessing the joyful reunion of old friends. The man tries to shake off the hand, to no avail.
      It would be easy enough for Kaim to kill him on the spot.
      His eyes show that he has no strength left to fight. Kaim has far more experience than the man does at surviving potentially fatal encounters.
      The man knows this.
      "If you're going to kill me, get it over with," he snarls.
      "But if you've got a trace of kindness in you, you'll give me one last chance to do something good for my mother. It won't take long. Just let me see her. Once. Then you can do whatever you like with me."
      Kaim lets his hand drop from the man's shoulder.
      He is not going to run away.
      "So, I didn't make it after all..." he says with a forced smile. His face tells Kaim that he has probably resigned himself to this fate. It suggests, too, an air of relief at having finally brought his life as a fugitive to an end.
      "How many men have you killed?" he asks Kaim.
      "I don't have to answer that."
      "And I don't really want you to tell me. It's just that, well, looking at you, I'd say I'm older than you are, and there are some things a person comes to realize when he's lived a long time. Think about the guys you've killed. Every single one of them had parents. Killing a person means killing somebody's child. Right? When that finally dawned on me, I left the gang. Gangs don't pay retirement bonuses, so i sort of 'borrowed' a little money from them and thought I'd use it to...well, I've given my mother a hard time all these years..."
      His voice grows thick and muffled. He shakes off the emotion and proclaims with a laugh,
      "Ah, what the hell! That's a lot of sentimental nonsense. I don't know how many guys I've killed over the years, so I figure I'm getting what I deserve. I can't hate you for what you're doing."
      A shout comes from the ferry deck: "We will be departing shortly! All passengers bound for the capital should be boarding now!"
      Kaim looks hard at the man and says, "Just tell me one thing."
      The man says nothing in reply, but Kaim continues,
      "What's the first thing you're going to do when you see your mother?"
      "Huh? What are you talking about?"
      "Never mind, just answer the question."
      "I'll say, 'I'm back.' No, I won't say anything. I'll just take her in my arms. That's all."
      "Give her a big hug?"
      "Sure. That's what parents and children are all about."
      Kaim relaxes the grim expression on his face and jerks his chin toward the forest beyond the pier.
      "There's an old, broken-down house in the woods. Your mother's waiting for you there. Go to her."
      "What are you talking about?"
      "Don't ever come back to the capital. And don't stay on this island. Take another ferry and go far away to some other island. With your mother."
      The man looks stunned. "You...I mean..."
      His voice is trembling.
      Kaim says nothing more.
      He leaves the man behind and strides toward the boat before it can depart.
      Mission accomplished.
      Kaim does not care if, in return for this deed, he is labeled a traitor to be pursued by the gang. The image of his own parents praying for their son's welfare has long since faded from his memory.

      "Pulling out! Please hurry!" comes the cries of the ferry's crew.
      A big gong is ringing. Startled by the sounds reverberating between the vast stretch of ocean and open sky, brightly-colored birds dart up from the forest. Large birds and small birds - parents and their young? The larger birds seem almost to be shielding the smaller ones beneath their slowly-beating, outstretched wings.
    15. Danny Boy

      Danny Boy Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Ear infection
      Elegy Island.
      This happened a long, long time ago.
      On a small island - which has since perished - they had an odd custom.
      They mourned their dead with song: with elegies.
      The songs would play without ceasing from the last moments before death, through the funeral, to the burial.
      Elegies would be sung for many purposes: to ease the grief of the family, to recall the legacy of the deceased, to appease the soul of the one who died under stressful cicumstances, to celebrate one person's having lived to a ripe, old age, or to evoke anger at another's pointless death.
      There were no fixed melodies or lyrics. Apparently the songs were sung without lyrics at all.
      "No documents have survived, so all we can do is assemble oral histories," sighs the achaeologist as she views the island from the deck of the ship.
      The people of that island country had no writing system, which means they had no way to leave behind signs or evidence of their lives.
      "I wish we could at least interview a few survivors. but there weren't any. Every single person was killed."
      The research team's archaeologist is a young woman in her twenties. Her country is the one that destroyed the island. It happened while her ancestors, seven generations back, were still young people.
      "I hate to bad mouth my own country," she says with a shrug, "but they really didn't have to go that far."
      "That far" is no exaggeration.
      Her country prided itself on it's overwhelming military force. For it to gain mastery over the tiny island would have been as simple as twisting an infant's arm.
      But her country believed in oppressing its neighbours with force. The leaders were thinking more of those neighbours then of the lands itself when it launched its all-out attack.
      It was scorched from end to end.
      Every human being on the island - from newborn babies to elders on the verge of death - was killed without mercy.
      "It's odd, though," says the young woman with a grim smile, "there are hardly any records left from that time, even in our country."
      "I suppose what they did was so terrible, they didn't want their descendants to know about it."
      Her remark prompts some older scholars on board to clear their throats, at the sound of which she snaps her mouth shut.
      "Sorry," she whispers, "you're not much older than I am, you porbably don't want to hear about all this old stuff anyway..."
      "I do, though."
      "What interest can a sailor like you have in these boring academic matters?"
      Kaim only shakes his head in silence.
      Suddenly things become very busy on deck. The boat is approaching the island and has entered a stretch of intricate channels where the skills of the crew will be tested.
      The boatswain calls Kaim.
      "Oh, I'm sorry," the woman says, "I shouldn't be monopolising your time. You've got work to do..."
      Even as she apologizes, the talkative young archaeologist asks Kaim.
      "Do you mind if I ask you one last question?"
      "Please, ask away," he replies, stopping in his tracks.
      She looks around to make sure no one is listening and whispers, "I'm sure this is your first time taking a research team over...."
      "And your first time going to the island?"
      "Well, yes..."
      "So you probably don't know about some of the bad stories they tell about this place - that some scholars who go there fall under a curse. Like, they get sick while doing their research on the island, or they become mentally unstable after they get home. I've heard some even killed themselves."
      "You mean a long time ago, right?"
      "Right. This is the first research trip in fifty years. Up to them, every time they sent out a team, one or two of the members would suffer the curse. This is why they put a stop to them all these years. So I'm a little scared myself..."
      She sends a mock shudder through her body. "I just thought I'd ask if you could teach me some magic spell for getting back safely..."
      Kaim looks straight at her - not merely taking in her appearance but searching for the person deep inside.
      "You'll be fine," he says.
      "You think so?"
      "I'm pretty sure you'll be okay"
      She looks at him questioningly.
      "If you hear singing, though," he adds "hum along with it"
      "What do you mean?" she asks, her expression increasingly uneasy, but Kaim says nothing more.
      "Get over here now, Mister!" the boatswain shouts at Kaim, who heads for his station.
      He did tell the woman one white lie, though.
      This is not his first time coming to the island.
      He has been here many times before.
      Hes first trip happened a long, long time ago.
      As the archaeologist said, that islands elegies had no fixed melody or lyrics. They were all sung extemporaneously and never repeated.
      A hundred deaths required a hundred elegies.
      Nor did mourners agree in advance on the nature of their elegy before they started singing. At frist, each would sing his or her own song expressing his or her own feelings about the deceased. Eventually, the jumble of songs would come together into a single melody without any one singer taking the lead.
      In the culture of this island that had no writing, there was, of course, no musical notation. There were no instruments for accompaniment either. Each mourner, in grieving for the loved one, would give voice to hopes for a peaceful journey, and a song would emerge.
      Kaim's travels first brought him here when the island was at peace, which is to say, centuries ago.
      He happened to arrive just after the death of a village elder. For three days and nights, an elegy was sung around the clock. The island people's song, which shook the darkness and reverberated all across the clear, blue daytime sky, left its mark with a certain ennobling comfort in the breast of Kaim, a man for whom fate had decreed that no one would ever sing an elegy.
      To think that such an island had been burned to the ground!
      The people fled in all directions at once, and were murdered one at a time.
      It was an absolute bloodbath.
      Kaim knows about the atrocities that accompanied the butchery - things that were not handed down to the generation of the young archaeologist.
      Had it wished to, the woman's country could have taken control of the island in a single night, but instead it used its military power to chase down each of the islands inhabitants over a period of several days as if carefully filling in the blank spaces in a coloring book.
      The island became enveloped in elegies.
      At first, while the living still outnumbered the dead, voices in elegiac song all but shook the island with their volume.
      As the days went by, however, and the dead came to outnumber the living, the sobbing voices in song grew ever fainter.
      When the battle reaches its final phase, the few remaining islanders, who had been cornered in the islands northern tip, fled into a large cave.
      They resigned themselves to death.
      All that was left for them to do was pray that they might be allowed to die with some degree of peace.
      But even this small measure of hope they were unable to wring from their attackers.
      The army of the archaeologist's country wert for maximum brutality. The entered the cave with every weapon at their command, and they dragged out and killed one islander per day.
      Today is was an old man.
      The next day it was a young man.
      The day after that they tortured to death a young mother with an infant at her breast, and the following day the infant they force from her arms was put to death.
      The elegies resounded without interruption.
      The singing voices that escaped from the cave invaded the ears of the soldiers who were carrying on the masacre. Those soldiers with kind hears collapsed one after another, or they went mad and left the front line.
      Song was the final weapon of the islanders, who had no other means to fight.
      They went on singing as they struggled against starvation, thirst, and their own fears.
      The commanding officer of the anti-insurgency force ordered his men to fill in the mouth of the cave. If they buried the people alive, he thought, the singing would no longer be audible.
      Nevertheless, thir singing continued.
      It went on, day after day.
      Rainy days, clear days, daytime, nighttime it continued, but no longer without breaks, which gradually increased in length.
      The singing went beyond being an elegy for a single person and became a song suffused with the sorrow of all the living things on the island.
      About the time the season ended, the last thing thread of singing died out.
      The army left the island.
      Not a single record of these military operations was left.
      Never again did anyone come to live on the island.
      The first research team in fifty years is plagued by difficulties.
      One scholar after another collapses.
      Almost every day, someone is sent out to the vessel anchored offshore, sick.
      All of the scholars moan with pain, blocking their ears.
      The situation is exactly what it was before the island was sealed from research.
      Kaim knows exactly what is happening.
      The ocean breeze sweeping across the island sounds like a song.
      The brances swaying in the forrest sound like a song.
      The birds in the trees sound like a song.
      The babbling of a brook sounds like a song.
      The treading of boots on piled-up fallen leaves sounds like a song.
      The crashing and receding of waves on the shore sounds like a song.
      The elegy for the island that people sang with every last bit of life they could dredge up from inside themselves, now is being sung by the island itself.
      "Please stop, I beg you, please stop..."
      The scholars cry out in their delirium, covering their ears.
      "I dont know what we did. It was our ancestors, not us."
      The scholars who maon this hear anger and sorrow in the constanty recunding elegy.
      What they say is true: it is not their fault.
      But they have been given no knowledge of what happened on this island so long ago.
      Sometimes, not knowing can be a profound sin.
      They should prick up their ears and listen all the more.
      That is what Kaim has always done.
      The elegy being sung by the island is not merely hurling hatred and anger at them.
      The island is not trying to torture members of the younger generation like them who are without sin.
      Rather than blocking their ears, they should listen.
      If they do so, the message will reach them.
      For the island is telling them.
      "You must know the truth. You must know what actually happened on this island so long ago."
      The investigation ends much earlier than originally planned.
      Most of the research team have returned to the ship, their health broken, and some of the more seriosly ill members have been sent home. It is no longer possible to continue the work.
      The young archaeologist who spoke to Kaim on the way in is one of the few who have persevered to the end.
      "Thanks to you," she says to Kaim.
      As soon as she climbed from the launch into the ship she saw Kaim standing on deck and hurried over to him.
      She looks haggard, but her fatigue is clearly less phyical than mental.
      Still, her eyes harbor a strong-willed gleam.
      "Did you hear the singing?" he asks.
      "I did," she says with a nod, looking back at the receding island.
      "It was so sad!"
      Just as he had thought: she was able to open herself to the sadness.
      "Did you sing along with it?"
      "Yes, I did that, too - partly because of what you said to me, but I also found myself humming the same tune quite naturally."
      Kaim nods and smiles at her.
      This is the first time he has encountered anyone with the heart to hear the island's elergy.
      "This time when i get home," she says, "I want to do some more serious research on the war. It's something I have to do, I almost feel I don't have any choice in the matter."
      "I'm glad to hear that," he says.
      "I might turn up some facts that my country finds inconvenient, but I feel its absolutely necessary to learn the truth - to know what actually happened."
      The ship emerges into the open sea.
      A single white bird flies out from the island is if seeing the ship off on its journey.
      Tracing a great arc against the blue sky, it releases one high, ringing cry.
      No longer an elegy, this is a song of joy and forgiveness signaling the dawn of a new age.
    16. Danny Boy

      Danny Boy Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Ear infection
      This one made me cry...So, so sad.

      The family members have tears in their eyes when they welcome Kaim back to the inn from his long journey.
      "Thank you so much for coming."
      He understands the situation immediately.
      The time for departure is drawing near.

      Too soon, too soon.
      But still, he knows, this day would have come sometime, and not in the distant future.
      "I might never see you again," she said to him with a sad smile when he left on this journey, her smiling face almost transparent in its whiteness, so fragile—and therefore indescribably beautiful—as she lay in bed.

      "May I see Hanna now?" he asks.
      The innkeeper gives him a tiny nod and says, "I don't think she'll know who you are, though."
      "She hasn't opened her eyes since last night," he warns Kaim. You can tell from the slight movement of her chest that she is clinging to a frail thread of life, but it could snap at any moment.
      "It's such a shame. I know you made a special point to come here for her..."
      Another tear glides down the wife's cheek.

      "Never mind, it's fine." Kaim says.
      He has been present at innumerable deaths, and his experience has taught him much.
      Death takes away the power of speech first of all. Then the ability to see.
      What remains alive to the very end, however, is the power to hear. Even though the person has lost consciousness, it is by no means unusual for the voices of the family to bring forth smiles or tears.
      Kaim puts his arm around the woman's shoulder and says, "I have lots of travel stories to tell her. I've been looking forward to this my whole time on the road."
      Instead of smiling, the woman releases another large tear and nods to Kaim, "And Hanna was so looking forward to hear your stories."
      Her sobs almost drown out her words.

      The innkeeper says, "I wish I could urge you to rest up from your travels before you see her, but..."
      Kaim interrupts his apologies, "Of course I'll see her right away."
      There is very little time left.
      Hanna, the only daughter of the innkeeper and his wife, will probably breathe her last before the sun comes up.
      Kaim lowers his pack to the floor and quietly opens the door to Hanna's room.

      Hanna was frail from birth. Far from enjoying the opportunity to travel, she rarely left the town or even the neighborhood in which she was born and raised.
      This child will probably not live to adulthood, the doctor told her parents.
      This tiny girl, with extraordinarily beautiful doll-like features, the gods had dealt an all-too-sad destiny.

      That they had allowed her to be born the only daughter of the keepers of a small inn by the highway was perhaps one small act of atonement for such iniquity.
      Hanna was unable to go anywhere, but the guests who stayed at her parent’s inn would tell her stories of the countries and towns and landscapes and people that she would never know.
      Whenever new guests arrived at the inn, Hanna would ask them,
      "Where are you from?" "Where are you going?"
      "Can you tell me a story?"

      She would sit and listen to their stories with sparkling eyes, urging them on to new episodes with "And then? And then?" When they left the inn, she would beg them, "Please come back, and tell me lots and lots of stories about faraway countries!"
      She would stand there waving until the person disappeared far down the highway, give one lonely sigh, and go back to bed.

      Hanna is sound asleep.
      No one else is in the room, perhaps an indication that she has long since passed the stage when the doctors can do anything for her.
      Kaim sits down in the chair next to the bed and says with a smile.
      "Hello, Hanna, I’m back."
      She does not respond. Her little chest, still without the swelling of a grown woman, rises and falls almost imperceptibly.

      "I went far across the ocean this time," he tells her. "The ocean on the side where the sun comes up. I took a boat from the harbor way way way far beyond the mountains you can see from this window, and I was on the sea from the time the moon was perfectly round till it got smaller and smaller then bigger and bigger until it was full again. There was nothing but ocean as far as the eye could see. Just the sea and the sky. Can you imagine it, Hanna? You’ve never seen the ocean, but I’m sure people have told you about it. It’s like a huge, big endless puddle."
      Kaim chuckles to himself, and it seems to him that Hanna’s pale white cheek moves slightly.

      She can hear him. Even if she cannot speak or see, her ears are still alive.
      Believing and hoping this to be true, Kaim continues with the story of his travels.
      He speaks no words of parting.
      As always with Hanna, Kaim smiles with a special gentleness he has never shown to anyone else, and he goes on telling his tales with a bright voice, sometimes even accompanying his story with exaggerated gestures.
      He tells her about the blue ocean.
      He tells her about the blue sky.
      He says nothing about the violent sea battle that stained the ocean red.
      He never tells her about those things.

      Hanna was still a tiny girl when Kaim first visited the inn.
      When she asked him "Where are you from?" and "Will you tell me some stories?" with her childish pronunciation and innocent smile, Kaim felt soft glow in his chest.

      At the time, he was returning from a battle.
      More precisely, he had ended one battle and was on his way to the next.
      His life consisted of traveling from one battlefield to another, and nothing about that has changed to this day.
      He has taken the lives of countless enemy troops, and witnessed the deaths of countless comrades on the battlefield. Moreover, the only thing separating enemies from comrades is the slightest stroke of fortune. Had the gears of destiny turned in a slightly different way, his enemies would have been comrades and his comrades enemies, This is the fate of the mercenary.

      He was spiritually worn down back then and feeling unbearably lonely. As a possessor of eternal life, Kaim had no fear of death, which was precisely why each of the soldier’s faces distorted in fear, and why each face of a man who died in agony was burned permanently into his brain.
      Ordinarily, he would spend nights on the road drinking. Immersing himself in an alcoholic stupor—or pretending to. He was trying to make himself forget the unforgettable.
      When, however, he saw Hanna’s smile and begged him for stories about his long journey, he felt a far warmer and deeper comfort then he could even obtain from liquor.

      He told her many things...
      About the beautiful flower he discovered on the battlefield.
      About the bewitching beauty of the mist filling the forest the night before the final battle.
      About the marvelous taste of the spring water in a ravine where he and his men had fled after losing the battle.
      About a vast, bottomless blue sky he saw after battle.

      He never told her anything sad. He kept his mouth shut about the human ugliness and stupidity he witnessed endlessly on the battlefield. He concealed his position as a mercenary for her, kept silent regarding his reasons for traveling constantly, and spoke only of things that were beautiful and sweet and lovely. He sees now that he told Hanna only beautiful stories of the road like this not so much out of concern for her purity, but for his own sake.

      Staying in the inn where Hanna waited to see him turned out to be one of Kaim’s small pleasures in life. Telling her about the memories he brought back from his journeys, he felt some degree of salvation, however slight. Five years, ten years, his friendship with the girl continued. Little by little, she neared adulthood, which meant that, as the doctors had predicted, each day brought her that much closer to death.

      And now, Kaim ends the last travel story he will share with her.
      He can never see her again, can never tell her stories again.
      Before dawn, when the darkness of night is at its deepest, long pauses enter into Hanna’s breathing.
      The frail thread of her life is about to snap as Kaim and her parents watch over her.
      The tiny light that has lodged in Kaim’s breast will be extinguished.
      His lonely travels will begin again tomorrow—his long, long travels without end.

      "You’ll be leaving on travels of your own soon, Hanna." Kaim tells her gently.
      "You’ll be leaving for a world that no one knows, a world that has never entered into any of the stories you have heard so far. Finally, you will be able to leave your bed and walk anywhere you want to go. You’ll be free."
      He wants her to know that death is not sorrow but a joy mixed with tears.
      "It’s your turn now. Be sure and tell everyone about the memories of your journey."
      Her parents will make that same journey someday. And someday Hanna will be able to meet all the guests she has known at the inn, far beyond the sky.

      I, however, can never go there.
      I can never escape this world.
      I can never see you again.
      "This is not goodbye. It’s just the start of your journey."
      He speaks his final words to her.
      "We’ll meet again."
      His final lie to her.

      Hanna makes her departure.
      Her face is transfused with a tranquil smile as if she has just said,
      "See you soon."
      Her eyes will never open again. A single tear glides slowly down her cheek.
    17. derpytia

      derpytia Member Benefactor

      Rescue, California
      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Hearing loss / ETD
      Here's one I related to so much. Cannot for the life of me figure out who wrote it, I looked everywhere:

      “there’s a dead girl inside me.

      i can feel her rattling around,
      her lungs choked with loss,
      heart pounding like wardrums.

      she had a laugh like summer rain
      until the world tore it away.

      (little girls who wish on stars
      don’t last long on the ground.)

      there’s a dead girl inside me
      and i’m the one who killed her."
      • Like Like x 2
    18. Danny Boy

      Danny Boy Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Ear infection
      That's deep.
    19. AUTHOR

      LillianLexicon97 Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Loud noise: Headphones
      This is something I wrote when I wanted to pursue music. I never got to make a melody for it.

      Cut myself on your glass heart:

      My fingers wept bloody tears,
      stained the crystal, cracked by your fears.
      But you pressed my hands to your glass heart.
      Begged me to hold it so it wouldn't fall apart.

      My voice was lost; tempered by love.
      So I held on to this glass so rough.
      Because this is love? Well at least ours.
      Leaving us empty to wish upon stars.

      Dreaming to pass the time.
      You're loves goes through me
      like wind through the chimes.
      Doesn't embrace me, nor does it move me.
      And you'd see this if you really new me.

      But I can't walk out the door.
      You beg and you implore.
      So I cradle your glass heart
      and let myself fall apart.​
      • Like Like x 5
    20. AUTHOR

      LillianLexicon97 Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Loud noise: Headphones
      *your, *knew oops!:X3:
      • Funny Funny x 1
    21. jimH
      No Mood

      jimH Member Benefactor

      Tinnitus Since:
      30 years+
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Acoustic trauma
      We knew what you meant. Those minor things didn't spoil anything....:)
      That poem touches the heart.
      • Like Like x 1
    22. Harold

      Harold Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Wonderful expressive poetry by Lillian Lexicon and she is very pretty to boot !
    23. Karen

      Karen Manager Staff Benefactor Ambassador Hall of Fame

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      First time: Noise 2nd Time: Ototoxic drug
      Beautiful poem, Lillian! You definitely have a gift for writing. Thanks for sharing, and we hope you'll share more poetry with us.
      • Agree Agree x 2
      • Hug Hug x 1
    24. derpytia

      derpytia Member Benefactor

      Rescue, California
      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Hearing loss / ETD
      Hey Lillian, if you want, even though I can't perform music anymore, I still write songs and melodies and I'm working on my senior project for the winter for my major where I have to record five songs for an EP I'm doing called A.I.D. (I still have to complete it as I signed up for the project way ahead of all the things happening to me now and I can't back out or I'll fail). If you want, I could write a tune for your song, record it and credit you on my project (I'm not making any money off it) and give you a copy if you want. It's going to be acoustic, quiet music with no artificial sound cause I can't handle those sounds.
      • Agree Agree x 1
      • Friendly Friendly x 1
    25. TheGagagirl1234

      TheGagagirl1234 Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Unknown/loud music
      Well here's a poem I just thought of:

      I can't remember silence anymore
      Because nothing is what it was before
      My ears are screaming
      And I'm sitting here crying
      But I won't stop believing​
      • Like Like x 2
      • Hug Hug x 2
    26. Kopesy

      Kopesy Member Benefactor

      East Midlands, England, United Kingdom
      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      I'll never know
      The Valley

      Betwixt the hills, a River there be,
      Such harmonious Valley, where water search sea..

      The fertile slopes, where all things can grow,
      Needs help from the water, but it is too low..

      The River lapses rock, causing the Valley to groan,
      Rumbles and echoes, holding the River with stone..

      Higher and higher the water did rise,
      The Valley came colour, to no great suprise..

      The flowers did bloom, free in the sun,
      A mind can flourish, when both become one.
      • Creative Creative x 3
      • Like Like x 1

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