MARK HUMPHREY

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AHAB, excerpt from “An Inquiry into the Fate of the U.S.S. Pequod”

Then my enemy, my bitter foe, looked at me with that eye as to say, “Look, Ahab!

See what I have done to thy works of man! But look sharply, as I have one more

thing for thee this day!”

    And then my enemy began his descent.

To say the sea is cold is a misnomer. It is not the cold of winter nights, that cold of

sleigh bells, of laughing children playing snowballs. It is something much...other.

   It is that cold that touches every cell of thy being. Every pore, every hair. It is

as cold as the devil’s hand itself. They say that Hell is a place of fire, well, I submit

that it is a place of ice. A cold, dark place. Fire may burn, but there is light there.

Not so with ice. It wraps thee.

   And as he pulls me down, the cold gets stronger. And stronger.

   And still he pulls me down.

And the dark. You have never seen a darkness as that of the sea.
   A dark where light has never been. A dark as solid as a wall. Black and cold as

the way to hell.
   And still he pulls me down.
   Down to that dark, airless place. That cold place. That very road to Perdition. I

had no hope.

 

   Then recalled I my line knife! My brake.

   I pulled it forth...
   And smote that rope!

 

   I saw the accursed beast pull away, his tail waving slowly in his descent. Away

and yon he swam, swam away and leaving me alone.

   Floating.

   We say floating when we recall such things lying on the surface of the sea, the

wave lapping against our hull. But for now, I would submit that floating is actually

beneath those waves.

   Deep beneath those waves.

   Deep where darkness is total. Deep where it is cold as a lock. Deep where the

only sound is the roaring silence in thy ears. Where everything seems miles away.

Deep where there is no up. No down. No back nor forth. No right. No left.

   No air.

   Floating.

I don’t know how many of thee have ever had the chance to drown, but it is an

opportunity that, if offered it, I would tell thee to pass.

p67 frozen lake of fire.jpg

“Frozen Lake of Fire” Christopher McGee.

Mixed media on canvas.

Click here for Christopher's page. 

NAT

When I was twenty, the old folks used to tell the story

of the young buck that stood up one day
and ran away from his marster’s farm.

He ran day and night, following the stars and the river

until he finally made it up north. Up there,
he meets some people sympathetic to his plight.

They take him to a meeting of well-wishers and do-gooders,
and they say to him, ‘Brother, oh brother,
rest your weary bones down and tell us the horrors of bondage.’

And he says to them, ‘Wasn’t so bad for me.
Marster never whipped us and never worked us too hard.’

And they say ‘Brother, oh brother,
let us get you something to eat.
You’ve most likely not had a good meal in your life.’

And he says to them, ‘Well, we always had enough to eat.

Marster always made sure we were provided for.’

Then one says, ‘Brother, oh brother,
let us get you some clothes, maybe a decent pair of shoes. You probably not had a good pair of shoes in your life.’

And he says, ‘Well, Marster always made sure
we were clothed properly. My shoes were always good.’

Then they say, ‘Brother, oh brother,
you speak so well. You must be an educated man.
It must have been dangerous for you to get some schooling.’

And he says, ‘No, no.
The marster made sure we could read and write.’

Then one says, ‘Brother, oh brother.
You were fed, clothed and educated. It sounds so nice.

Why did you leave?’

And he says to them, ‘I can most assure you that my former position

is vacant and still available, should any of you
wish to go down and apply for the job.’

A traditional tale arranged by Mark Humphrey excerpt from “Times of Service”

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"Freedom Beyond" by Steven Siegel. Photograph. 

Click here for Steven's page.