…From the town where I was born,
Has driven my destiny,
The town which I have lost,
My glance is greeting me in my dreams.

Vom Dorf, drin ich geboren,
Trieb weit mich das Geschick,
Das Dorf, das ich verloren,
Grüßt jetzt im Traum mein Blick

Michael Albert, 1856

Roxanne Hoffman

Ripped from the safety of earth...

aunched at warp speed into deep space, I brace myself against the thrust.

The conversation in the control room, already fragmented into squeals and clicks by static, is consumed by the raging roar of rocket engines.

We’re in the doctor’s office waiting our turn. He arrives and hands me a clipboard with a questionnaire. I have all the wrong answers for the all too familiar questions, before I realize that I am filling out a second copy of the questionnaire and that I skipped the back of the first copy. Pause, rewind, record. I total up the score. Diagnosis: Depression. I review my answers. Pause. Rewind. Make one correction. Re-total the score. Diagnosis: Depression. I hand back the clipboard.

The doctor reads my response and chuckles to himself. “Well at least, you don’t feel like killing yourself! That’s good news. You know more about this than me. You’ve had this all your life. What do you usually take?”

As the engines die down, and we settle into the next phase of the launch, I hear myself respond, voice cracking, stuttering as the engines sputter, slow motioned several octaves lower to unrecognizability. “Well th-th-the last time was-was-was t-t-twelve years ago...”

“Yes, really 12 years ago,” my husband, Pete chimes in.

“... D-d-d-doc..D-d-doct-t-ter...H-h-herr-m-m-ma-ma-ma...”

“Her old doctor. Dead now. Died a year or so later after a liver transplant. Had his own issues, but did wonders for hers. He came right over when we called. He came when no one else would come.” interrupts Pete.

“... H-h-he gave me P-P-Pro-Pro-zac, P-P-Prozac, a tr-tr-tranq-quil-lizer and and anti-anti-psychotic…C-c-clorazepan, I think. I tried P-P-Pa-xil once but n-n-noth-thing h-h-appened so I stopped.”

“Her primary care physician gave her a prescription. She took it for one or two days and then forgot to take it,” corrects Pete.

The video transmission ends abruptly, my image is distorted by the darkened monitor screens surrounding me into a million copies of Munch's “Scream”. I look for my hands to muffle my ears. Find them trembling as my sides like frightened birds. My knees are shaking. Sticking my hands in my pockets, I shift my gaze to the panoramic view of what lays ahead.

We’re home. I swallow a small white round pill and then half of a slightly larger oval blue pill with a glass of water.

We are drifting, engulfed by blackness. The earth is nowhere to be seen. Perhaps, behind us. The steady rhythm of the various meters and system checks ticks hypnotically like a hundred clocks. I sleep.

A month or so later, crash landing, I return to earth, mindfully muddled, squinting at the sunlight as I emerge from my capsule. Unable to stand steady in the surf, I make myself a moving target, wading to shore, thinking only a day has passed. Feeling more alien than earthling.

Pete begs me to follow the Doctor’s orders: Avoid crowds and don’t be the center of attention. He makes a phone call. Makes my apologies. An event is cancelled.

As I come closer to the beach, the clamor of colorfully clad children frolicking in waves mixes with rock-‘n-roll buzzing from boom boxes and the chorus of cries from shrieking volley ball players and their admiring fans. I take in the familiar scent of suntan oil, sea salt, hot dogs and sun-drenched nakedness.

Swimmers interrupt their summer pastime to come ashore. They wake their sun-seeking partners to point out the slowly approaching slim silvered figure shimmering above the waves.

The Zoloft is working. The doctor says I only need to take it for six to nine months and everything will be okay. Maybe, I’ll have another episode in 15 years. Maybe never. He reminds us both that it’s just a chemical imbalance in the brain. Something is off with my Serotin levels. Nothing is innately wrong with me. I’m not crazy. What a relief. I just act nuts.

I sit down on the hot sand. A dripping boy comes up to me behind a rolling beach ball and invites me to play. Accepting, I putt back the ball.

“Are you an angel?” he asks retrieving his prize. “I saw you fall from the sky.”

“No just a space explorer, home at last,” I reply.

Roxanne Hoffman, a former Wall Street banker, now answers a patient hotline for a major New York home health care provider. Her poetry is anthologized in The Bandana Republic: A Literary Anthology By Gang Members And Their Affiliates (Soft Skull Press) and can be heard during the independent film, “Love & The Vampire,” directed by David Gold. Her poems have recently appeared in Amaze: The Cinquain Journal, Best Poem: A Literary Journal, Champagne Shivers, Clockwise Cat, MOBIUS The Poetry Magazine, Mirror Dance and in the Canadian journal Inscribed. She and her husband own the small press, POETS WEAR PRADA, specializing in limited edition poetry chapbooks. Visit her online at http://poetswearprada.blogspot.com/ to find out how you can submit your poetry and micro fiction to our annual anthology (tell her Danse Macabre sent you).

Richard Rand

City of Light

n this certainly holy house,
The name I will not tell, there awaits a well
Where every patron can toss
A coin that never hits bottom, never echoes
With a whirling clickity-clack.

The eye of the well weeps black,
Its pupil the dismal stare of a fallen soul
Mercy starved in a body curled adder tight
And mouth stretched in a dormant growl.

Bombs of ecstasy have burned her bare
Revolutions have bled and stumbled dead there.
Yet still the house defiantly stands
Against every one of its meddling masters.

In waves of murmurs unending she brings
Beggars never tiring of finger worn money,
Birthing the littlest things to play games
Through her doors and stamp her stones dry.

Here her silence begets a cloud, a kind
Of new incense weaving sleep
Through cracked faces companioned
By stagnant pools of old chants,
Songs of past ceremony eluding crowds.

There, she keeps polished collections
Of discarded teeth and bleached knucklebone
Where every stair and step
Draws the wanted guest closer to smoke
Stacked halls always churning, always burning
When sunlight warms sprinkled ash,
Flowers form and a grand garden grows
Full of fluted standing stone
Whitewashed smooth. Do you approve?

Then this house is yours, each chair is yours
To contemplate the cryptic, if so inclined
Take the staircase that winds down
Wrapping around the weeping underground.
There you will find she remains
Your friend before you with candle wax
To seal your eyes in a room of resting dead.

Richard Rand is a graduate student at the University of North Texas. Danse Macabre welcomes him to our pages.

Felino Soriano


he child wrote his dream
his dream a terror filled phase
of short lived life across
awakened swiftness, body
thrown forward
a shifting fly atop white air,
on fire the necessity
spoke of past in which
desire never transpired.
Safety now a bitter
called into where
callous diversity sits atop
buildings of the narrowest

Felino Soriano 's poetry has appeared in BlazeVOX, Sugar Mule, Unlikely Stories 2.0, Otoliths, Wilderness House Literary Review, among others. His chapbook Exhibits Require Understanding Open Eyes is available through Trainwreck Press. He writes from California. Danse Macabre welcomes him to our pages.

Elizabeth I. Riseden

Confucian Walls

China’s wild section
of Great Wall sweeps
across what was once

In the nearby entertainment
area, tourists bustle among
stalls; many traders
show Mongolian roots.

A lone duck
white as a ghost
nearby, hunting

Atop San Diego’s Great
Wall sweeps the Mexican
vista, gateway
to the Latino south.

many traders are Latinos,
uneasy in their welcome,
legal or not,

A lone duck
waddles in rain
by the wall.
A grasshopper dangles
from its beak.

Elisabeth I. Riseden writes from Carson City, Nevada. Her poetry has appeared in The Tonopah Review and does so frequently in Danse Macabre.

Luigi Monteferrante

Turisti con Guida

ow charming
These harmless couples
On a fling
Through Venice
And Rome

Sneakers on their feet
With a baseball cap
And a broad-rimmed chapeau
With sunglasses both
And foulards

For experience teaches
That beyond that sunny piazza
Turns a cobblestone street
Dense with plague
And damp

And that cap and foulard
All you have
Against the cold
And disease
Or the sniffles
And a sneeze

She has purplish hair
A pink chemise
A necklace of pearls
The size of bubble gum balls
And trousers of cotton
With an elastic waist band
To accommodate

Oh so delicious meals
They were keen to walk off
On their way to
Palazzo grandioso
Another church
Majestic painting
From the school of Caravaggio

A guy who studied with a guy who
Studied with a guy who studied with a guy
Who studied in Florence for a week and saw
Caravaggio through a crack in the wall
While this altar is stone
Though in fact
It’s marble from

We know all that
We’re from the Bible Belt
Now where’s the vino?
And the delicious food
Why we’re here Senor

Forget the tip, hon
He might – pssst - steal your wallet

While Mister Bill
Is conspicuous
By that thick crop of hair
A shaggy bear
Instead of a shining pate

A head above the rest
The native men
Despite the shrinkage and
Curvature of late
None too drastic from the six foot two
As a college graduate
His hands thick and powerful

The hands of a quarterback
And quick
Long ago
No match for the short men
Still hauling brick
Sacks of flour
Plowing the terraced gardens
And carrying away the stones that
The earth keeps churning up

No - golf is not enough to keep him
In shape
After decades of disuse
His butt as shapely as the office chair
Rising only in the board room
To bang his fist
I insist
No – we don’t do that in your country
To piss

Nor does he fly from the bench to shout orders
At the pee-wee league games
When a player strikes out
And spills balls
But has the child warm the bench
For the rest of the season
And the next
Well – maybe you should try gymnastics
Or bowls

Still life was good
After all those years of work
And dedication
No complaints
Forty years and more to enjoy:

A gondola ride
On a stinking canal
Full of gnats

Luigi Monteferrante's poetry has appeared in Neon, Yellow Mama, Wordslaw, and the forthcoming issues of Poesia (Indiana Bay) and Kudos Writing. His short fiction has appeared in Chicago Quarterly Review and Happy. Originally from Montreal, Luigi now lives in bella Italia. Danse Macabre welcomes him to our pages.

Christopher Perkins


Since I, I and we are
not a scarcity

listen! Did you
Hear the sound of
Eco-home awaking
In the jetfighter air,
In the raped and cultivated lands,
In the warm waters,
In the thunderbolts

Alone; so alone

It proved the physicality
Of my being once

Rock older
Tree wiser

In a moment of
Inattention it returned,
Empirical or not

A stale taste left
In my mouth
Perhaps too, too much cheap coffee
I don't regret it with a stick of soft gum

Gluing together the lips in frustrated urgency
The world was never created
Because it is in the process of creation
No museum for it!

Those who happen to be poor
Don't want our respect
They might want our money

How aggressive are our words ----
I looked to the tree
It told me thus
In uncanned velocity

Under the hallucination of identity
The division between state and corporate
Has Moloch gone; where is Moloch?

I am a guest here, completely
Humans consume; we are not consumer
Write this poem
Faster since I am
Not getting paid
By the word, you know.

Invented scarcity
Parsed complexity
Effectively speaking

Find a friend,
They are out there

The numbers look pretty
I was not ready to compete.

Christopher Perkins hails from Utah. He has recently complete his Master's and is now a Fulbright Scholar in France. Danse Macabre welcomes him back to our pages.

Branch Isole

40 Winks

eavy laden lids
gently flutter
Audible sighs
from parted lips
slowly stutter
Air intake
Subconscious trek
unravels its fun
Today's nap
has begun

Space and time travel
Universe unfolds
Where shall we go today?
Seven minutes of horror
or play?

Between these three
a molecular thin line,
the choice and decision
is in the mind
Travel near or travel far
You'll be exactly where
you imagine you are

Your reclining body
may be on the bed
but the rest of you
is in your head
Experiencing that
which you think is real,
and you could swear it is
by the way you feel

And who's to say
it's not . . .

For every element is present
proving beyond a doubt
you may be physically down
but you're never mentally out

So nap and dream
laugh or scream
for as your body rests,
in those minutes
your mind is busy
exploring its outer limits

Branch Isole poets from Hawaii. More of his writing can be found at www.manaopublishing.com. Danse Macabre welcomes him and all Five-O to our pages.

Felicia Florine Campbell

From Kabul to the North Pole: Solo Travelers, Their Narratives and Their Non-Human Companions and Me

Fiction, especially children’s fiction, is filled tales of lone young adventurers and their animal companions. Dorothy had the both the Cowardly Lion and Toto, as well as the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, to help her down the yellow brick road, while Mowgli had the black panther Bagheera, the brown bear Balloo, the giant python Kaa and a whole pack of wolves to help him with his jungle survival. In fact young people's literature is rife with these intrepid juveniles, who bolstered by their non-human companions, succeed in their dangerous quests which inevitably end in some sort of self-realization.

Similarly, although less frequently, adult narratives of solo travel carry a similar message. No one argues that extreme wilderness experience is one of the proven ways to transcend the mundane and come to know ourselves. Far from technology, in situations which combine intense physical activity and danger, we often move into the altered state of consciousness which native Americans sought in the vision quest, and Csikszentmihalyi refers to as "flow" , or the "flow experience, in which we become so engrossed in the experience we become one with it, and often emerge changed. Whether the experience is referred to as “flow”, mystical experience or "having no head", as one writer put it, it is the reason that many of us seek adventures in the wilderness or thrill vicariously to the narratives of those who do.

Such experience is difficult to achieve in a traditional expedition setting. Here our closest friends can begin to exhibit new and annoying personality traits that hadn't seemed to surface at home. Those of us familiar with high altitude experiences are aware that, as the altitude increases, so does irritation with the annoying habits of our companions. Like fiends out of Poe, we begin to dream of clever ways to eliminate the offenders, perhaps by walling them up in snow caves. Fortunately these feelings are seldom acted on and usually disappear by the time that we arrive home.

Part of the reason for this irritation may be a craving for solitary experience. Alone one can be absorbed in the moment, free to stare at a particular peak for hours at a time without being sneered at, having one’s sanity questioned, or being accused of threatening the success of the expedition by throwing the schedule off kilter. Away from the trappings of Western civilization and companions, they become “travelers, not tourists,” free to achieve their inner goals. Common sense and practicality, of course, mitigate against a great deal of solo activity in perilous places, but it is sometimes possible to reduce the peril and achieve the solo experience if one substitutes animal for human companions, the companionship of animals being less likely to interfere with one's interior experience.

Robyn Davidson, author of Tracks , succeeded in her solo expedition across the deserts of the Australian outback in large measure because of the help and companionship of her animals. Her idea was to capture some wild camels from the Australian bush, train them and traverse the wild desert Outback, alone except for her dog Diggity. "She wanted," she said, "to be alone, to test, to push, to unclog my brain of all its extraneous debris, not to be protected, to be stripped of all the social crutches, not to be hampered by any outside interference whatsoever (102)," an excellent description of the state in which many hope to experience in the wilderness.

In order to achieve this, she underwent incredible difficulties in the chauvinistic Outback where she learned not only to tame and handle camels, but also to love them. She describes them as incredibly intelligent, "affectionate, cheeky, witty, self-possessed, patient, hardworking and endlessly interesting and charming." Likening them to eight year old children, she notes that training them is difficult as they are "of an essentially undomestic turn of mind as well as extremely bright and perceptive." These traits, in turn, have led to the camels' reputations as dangerous and recalcitrant. In addition, they "are sensitive animals easily ruined by bad handlers." Ethnocentric they believe "they are god's chosen race. But they are also cowards and their aristocratic demeanor hides delicate hearts." (29)

Her peace made with the camels, she found herself short of money for the expedition. Finally, her financial situation became so desperate that she was faced with the alternative of taking money from National Geographic as a sponsor or giving up the expedition. Taking money meant that she was obligated to an agency outside herself, and would be forced to interrupt her solitude to allow Geographic photographer Rick Smolens to create photo sessions. Acceptance of the Geographic offer was a bitter pill, as she felt strongly that the purity of her endeavor had thus been besmirched, and she would became an unwilling celebrity, vampirized both by the media and the curious. These concerns were valid.

Even so, she was rewarded by long periods of solitude, and identification with the landscape where she learned to perceive the interconnectedness of all things. She learned not only to see but to know both the animals and their tracks, understanding them in the larger context of their setting, the environments teaching her, at it were, by osmosis. "It became, she said, "an animate thing of which I was a part. . . .What was once a thing that merely existed became something that everything else acted upon and had a relationship with and vice versa." Even rocks became part of what she saw as "a net." Finally when this way of thinking became normal for her, she "became lost in the net. . .the boundaries of myself stretched out forever" (195).

Thus the self in the desert is altered to become desertlike. "It becomes limitless with its roots more in the subconscious than the conscious - it gets stripped of non-meaningful habits and becomes more concerned with habits related to survival."(197).

Still, as she found, no matter how profound the experience, these moments are limited and leave one as open to self-deception as before they were experienced. Toward the end of the trip, filled with hubris, having overcome her fears, she felt invincible, untouchable, that there was no more the desert could teach her, but she was wrong. She had to learn that "Death is sudden and final and comes from nowhere" (223).

Low on food and euphoric, she neglected to muzzle Diggity in an area where ranchers had dropped strychnine from airplanes to kill native dogs. Poisoned, Diggity came to her for help, and all she could do was shoot her. Grief-stricken and numb, she said good-bye "to a creature that she had loved unconditionally, without question(225)." This essentially marked the end of the adventure. Without her, Robyn was susceptible once more to those swamping, irrational feelings of vulnerability and dread; her desire to hold Diggity close like a physical need (231).

Her camels Zelieka, Goliath, Bub and Dookie survived the trek to be rewarded with a happy retirement. Leaving them was agony. She spent hours saying farewell. "Tearing myself away from them caused actual physical pain, and I kept going back to sink my forehead into their woolly shoulders and tell them how wonderful and clever and faithful and true they were and how I would miss them" (253). Sustained by her animals, she had, by and large, achieved her goals, although not in the manner she had predicted.

Like Davidson, Geoffrey Moorhouse chose camels as his wilderness companions. He aimed to make the first camel crossing by a westerner of the Sahara from the Atlantic to the Nile. More interested in testing the limits of human endurance, particularly his own, than in setting a record, although he certainly would not have minded doing so, Moorhouse chose a meandering itinerary that would take him thirty-six hundred miles if he succeeded, landing him at the Nile by Christmas l973, a journey of almost ten months. He was seeking to find himself, to stop "spinning helplessly and hopelessly through a fearful void of the spirit"(40).

No animal lover, he saw camels as the means to an end. Threatened even by domestic dogs, he was irritated by animal lovers and saw camels as potential sources of danger, which, as Robyn was aware, they are if mishandled To his credit, he learned both to ride and to handle them, but they were never to become for him the sustaining presences that Robyn's camels and dog were to her.

Advisors soon convinced him not to attempt the crossing alone, telling him that one man couldn't cope physically with the hard work involved in an extended camel journey. Doubting his courage, he decided that not only was he unable to cope with the camels alone, but also he was experiencing "a deep, primeval fear of the void." Looking over the dunes, he compared himself to "a caterpillar wriggling hopefully across an eternal nothingness from which all life had been apparently extinguished" (118).

Although there were moments when he could see "the fruitfulness of the desert that mystics had found through the ages", moments which "calmed his soul", he felt that he could not receive them on this journey, "that one could never rest long enough to receive the vision of the small thing that might lighten the darkness" (197). This distancing of himself from the wilderness he traversed left him outside and isolated. He would never during the trek consciously feel warmth toward the camels he referred to mainly as the beasts, although he did come to respect them, and, at times, pity them. Eventually he would question why he had sacrificed those camels that had died on the trip, and would seem to genuinely regret the death of the brown bull, a gallant animal that had traveled an unconscionable distance to serve his purposes, although as he stated, he was unmoved by the deaths of the others.

Although he traveled almost 2,000 miles, no mean feat, he did not achieve his goal of the Nile and feared going home both because he felt defeated, and because, after his months in the desert, he was uncertain how he would react to urban life. He seldom achieved those moments of flow discussed by Robyn Davidson. On one of the last days, he wrote that, although he had finally discovered the beauty of the desert, all he could feel was "agony, suffering, pain, mindlessness, endlessness, futility." A mere automaton under the brutal sun, he felt "scarcely recognizable as a human being, with the responses that alone distinguish us from the animals. I wondered whether I had forfeited a little of my soul to the desert - maybe the greater part of it" (271). Perhaps had he traveled alone with his animals more open to their companionship, rather than depending on the duplicitous and endlessly irritating guides, the solitude might have saved him from finding a void both inside and outside.

He may have been nearer a breakthrough than he knew. Before he left Tamanrasset, the end of his journey, he visited the marketplace where he had left his camels to see how they were getting on. They were gone. He left, feeling empty, believing that he must return to his own people, because only with them could he replenish what had been poured out of him on his journey.

Rory Stewart’s experience was far different. In January 2002 soon after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, he walked from Herat to Kabul, immortalizing his trek in The Places in Between, a narrative as remarkable as Davidson’s Tracks. Stewart, a Scotsman who had been a British diplomat had set himself to walk across Iran, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Afghanistan. “There was,” he said, “a magic in leaving a line of footprints stretching behind me across Asia. (25)” The Afghani portion of the trip had been left for last due to the war. His goal was adventure, his route in Afghanistan a difficult one through the central mountains away from the major areas of conflict.

At the first tribal hill village after he left Herat where he was at last to able to shake the companions with whom he had been saddled for the previous days, Stewart was offered an ancient, almost toothless dog, the size of a small pony whose ears and tail had been chopped off to make him a better fighter. Although he initially doubted that the dog could make it the 750 kilometers to Kabul, he was drawn to him, named him Babur, after the Afghan hero, and decided to take him back to Scotland (127 – 121). Loving Babur almost immediately, Rory described him as “beautiful, wise and friendly” while Afghans who see dogs as unclean animals described him as “big, strong, useless, tired or decrepit (133)”

As soon as Babur enters the narrative, it shifts from first person singular to first person plural. Rory and Babur are clearly companions. Babur’s picture is include several times in the illustrations (upaginated); most indicative of the author’s feelings about him is one labeled “Babur and the author’s footsteps crossing the frozen Band-e-Amir.”

At various times villagers attempted to take Babur, or to get Rory to let him fight which, of course, he refused.

As the walk progressed, Rory became increasingly proud of Babur who, old as he was, had gamely managed to walk “twelve hours without a break, crossing a ten-thousand foot pass through snow four feet deep (181).” He was proud also of Babur’s heritage. “He was a type of mastiff, bred to fight and guard against wolves, dogs, and humans.” These dogs are found on early Egyptian wall paintings and Assyrian wall friezes. After they reached Daulatyar, people referred to him an Aimaq dog, a special mastiff that was chronicled in the 11th century as “a remarkably fine breed of dogs in Ghor so powerful that in frame and strength every one of them is a match for a lion.” Further, they were such an important part of Islamic culture, that one scholar wrote, “Avicenna could not fight with a dog from Ghor (182).”

At the half-way point when Babur got ill, Rory refused to leave him until he staggered to his feet and proceeded. In some of the villages that they passed through Babur was treated with reasonable kindness; in others he was tormented but the two remained steadfast although “although children in every village threw stones and called their dogs down on Babur. (207).”

At one point, Rory sick and exhausted lay down in the center of a frozen lake. Feeling warm and at ease, he settled down to die. “I closed my eyes and smiled. I had done enough. It occurred to me that no one could criticize me for staying here (231).” Babur would have none of it, however, and nudged and at barked him until he got up and continued on. “His matter-of-factness made me feel that I was being melodramatic. If he was going to continue, so was I (232).”

Finally near the journey’s end, Rory feared that Babur would not be strong enough to walk the last four days to Kabul from where he planned to take him home to Scotland. Finding Babur a ride, he tied him to a post and walked out (263).

Babur made it to Kabul where he was well treated and seemed happy. Having made plans to fly him to Scotland, Rory scratched him for less time than he wanted to avoid worrying him. Babur, however, never made the plane. Someone gave him a rack of lamb and the bone splinters killed him.

Rory finished, “I don’t imagine Babur would have been very impressed to see me crying now, trying to bring back five weeks walking alone together with my hand on a grizzled golden head, which is Babur beside me and alive.( 297)”

Unlike those of Robyn, Geoff, and Rory, Helen Thayer's goals were clearly athletic. At age fifty, she wanted to be the first woman to solo ski and walk to the North Pole. Not suffering a spiritual crisis, at least not one that she shared with her readers, she was interested in setting a record and proving her athletic prowess. She didn’t have Robyn's lust for solitude, but had both trained and sacrificed to meet this challenge. Like Stewart, she was well aware of the difficulties of a solo expedition, particularly one on foot. "There is no one else to hold the other end of the tent so it doesn't blow away. No one to share camp chores. No one to talk to about fears. No one to help make decisions, and, above all, no one to help watch for bears" (63).

While her desire to set a record was greater than that of Moorhouse, her reliance on her animal companion was as great as that of Robyn Davidson and perhaps greater than that of Rory Stewart. Although an animal lover, Helen had not initially planned to take a dog, wanting to rely solely on herself. Inuit hunters, however, convinced her that she should take an Inuit dog to protect her from Polar bears, as Inuit dogs and polar bears are natural enemies. Thus she set out on her journey, accompanied by a black Inuit husky that she had known only three days.

Falling in love with him at first sight, she named him Charley, a first for him, as, like Afghani dogs, Inuit dogs have no names. Charlie had been trained to warn villagers about approaching polar bears, and was not used to kindness. Inuit dogs lead a harsh life, living without shelter in even the harshest weather, being hurled a piece of frozen seal meat three or four times a week and chewing ice for water, while living tied to a four foot chain.

The first day out proved her wisdom in taking him when he scared polar bears away on three separate occasions. Without him, she probably would either have been attacked or fled. At the end of the first day, in temperatures of minus 41 degrees, she had made only three miles and was frankly frightened. Uncertain whether or not to continue, she debated with herself until she came to the conclusion that she would continue, keeping Charley on his chain, releasing him only at the last moment if necessary to attack a bear, and that she would shoot only as a last resort.

After making the decision, she gave Charlie a big hug and burst into tears of relief, a bad idea as her eyelids froze shut, leaving her helpless until she managed to thaw them with saliva. By the second day, her hands were blistered with the cold and she and Charlie were fast friends. By the seventh day, Charlie was no longer keeping watch outside the tent, but had moved inside where he immediately made a bid for the sleeping bag.

By day eleven, they were on thin ice, perhaps the most harrowing experience of the trip. Charlie was at a loss here, and she realized that she was responsible for his safety, something which struck her particularly as she had taught this animal who trusted no human being to trust her. Realizing how much she loved him, she was devastated by the thought of any harm coming to him, and wrote: "It was a precious gift to be trusted and loved by a dog that had never learned trust and had never known human kindness" (138).

By now, they were sharing peanut butter cups and Helen called him solid, loving and dependable, noting that their mutual understanding had grown each day. By day fourteen, Charlie had chased more polar bears away, and Helen was sharing more of her rations with him, a mark of his growing equality. By day seventeen, Charlie was no longer sleeping in the vestibule of the tent but curled by Helen's side.

By day twenty-two she had made it to the Pole, but her food had been blown away in a storm that had also damaged her sight. Charlie was again a wonderful companion. She invited him into the tent so that they would be together if anything went wrong with the ice on which they were camped, or if a bear happened by. Charlie now shared her pillow, his snore reassuring her throughout the night.

At one point, she considered eating some of Charlie's food (he was now on half rations), but decided against it, as Charlie was her companion and, like Rory, she felt his survival to be just as important as hers. On the twenty-seventh day, dehydrated and starving, she and Charlie completed the journey, and Charlie went home with her, their bonds of loyalty, friendship and trust unshakable.

Helen doesn't discuss the flow experience as such, but her triumph at her achievement and her plans to return to the pole on foot with her husband Bill and, of course, Charlie make it clear that she was experiencing something of the sort, perhaps not recorded in her journal because of the savage cold, vicious storms and difficulty in working her bleeding hands. Still near the end of her book, she writes of the twenty-seven day, three-hundred and sixty-four mile journey: "I realized that I had the inner strength to make it all the way to the pole. I realized I had coexisted in harmony with nature which sometimes can be unforgiving"(245). Of Charlie, whom she had unabashedly come to love, she said, "I had much to be grateful to him for." Never did he question her decisions, teaching her "patience and trust," while she looked forward to teaching him about her world that they were about to enter (246).

This writer’s fascination with wilderness companions may have been born from her reading, but the certainty that what they give is more than human comes from eight years of wandering the Red Rock trails in Nevada, watched over by Raksha, her beautiful wolf, and best friend, who died after a lime disease vaccination turned her immune system against her. Fiercely ill, she fought death until she was given permission to go.

So this is for Raksha, Diggity, Charley, Babur and all the wilderness companions who enrich our lives with what may be only unconditional acceptance and love we will ever experience. Like Robyn after Diggity's death, I became "susceptible to all those swamping feelings, irrational feelings of vulnerability and dread (231)." Like Rory, I wept. Like Helen, I have a new companion, Gudrun, a coyote mix, who in her scattered way is trying very hard to fill Raksha's paw prints. While there is little chance of that, in time she'll find a way to make her own mark. Even though there is a severe shortage of polar bears in the Nevada desert, she sees the wild burros that are everywhere here an equal challenge.

Felicia Florine Campbell is professor of English at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. She writes from Blue Diamond, Nevada, astride the breathtaking Red Rock Canyon.

Adam Henry Carriere

Kiss Me on the Freeway

e’d run from the pastures of grass
to sing and dance in a car he didn’t own.

Palm trees and faded neon passed
the water-stained glass
while dreams bounced inside,
better than wine.

The padded shoulders of memory agreed,
the pestle and mortal sin were sumptuous;

the worth of studying failed history aside,
this morphine-like lullaby still works,
like a Cartier charm.

Without the bother of incriminating ledgers,
the punky kiss still arouses deep passion
across the trench of time

mis-spent in the distance
away from the wisdom of sea-shells
and the cruel humor of used syringes.

The scent of delicious children holds, true.

Adam Henry Carriere's writings have appeared in The Tonopah Review, Zygote in My Coffee, Popular Culture Review, Tattoo Highway, NoTe Revue, The Chiron Review, Strip, RFD, QTribe, and others. He no longer writes from Texas, he's happy to say.