Friday, July 23, 2010

Like Bill, Gore Just Wants to Have "Fun!"

When we first heard Al and Tipper separated,
There was a gasp heard round the world,
That kiss, ten years ago, at the Democratic Convention,
But now accusations are being hurled:

A Nobel Prize for disrespecting health care professionals,
Female massage Therapist Numbers 1, 2, 3...
While trotting the globe promoting his movie to save the Earth,
Laurie David, did he or didn't he?

But worst of all, the Inconvenient Truth,
After sanctimoniously distancing himself from Clinton during his Presidential run,
Perpetrating the boring image which some blame for his loss,
When like Bill, Gore just wants to have "fun!"

Karen Ann DeLuca

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

We're Still Electing Them Way Too Tall

We elected him as a mirror,
And because he wasn't George W. Bush,
Racially mixed, he seemed to reflect US well,
Kids and wife; finally, a First Lady with a tooch!

A human Rorschach,
We projected onto him what we wanted to see,
Which has led to massive disappointment,
Because he just isn't all that we thought him to be.

Aloof, robotic, and detached,
Not nearly as emotional a Democrat as we'd like,
Who knew when we elected the first Black President,
He'd take a page from "I like Ike."

And now all that elitist, arrogant body language,
Will be tested in races come this Fall,
Maybe this time we'll find leaders truly in touch with US,
Because we're still electing them way too tall.

As we cast our ballots this November,
If warranted, yes, throw the bums out,
No room for arrogant, entitled incumbents,
With eyes wide open, voters have the ultimate clout.

It's easy to project superhuman qualities,
Especially in hard economic times,
Been there, done that, elected officials aren't saviors,
This time, no room for second thoughts and regrets down the line.

Karen Ann DeLuca

Friday, July 16, 2010


As the crystal white flakes fall to the ground
They make a blanket of snow across the fresh dug dirt pile,
The sound of weeping is all that can be heard
As his mothers tears glisten in the light from the sun
And his father places his son’s class ring on his own hand,
The cedar casket covered in red roses is gently lowered into the earth,
His family can only remember his young smiling face,
The decisions he made has now changed all their lives,
Why did he even have to go out that night?
It was just another birthday to make him a year older,
The countless drinks he consumed to celebrate the next year
As his friends kept buying him more rounds of beer,
As the night came to an end no one was their to accompany him
As he found his keys to make his last journey home,
But the S turn he just didn’t see
As his car was ripped to shreds his life was suddenly brought to an end,
His loving family he will never see again
Because he let himself drink and then drive
Which caused his promising young life to come to a horrific close.


As the cold rusty razor touches my boney tensed wrist
I wonder if this is the right decision that I am about to make
Would my parent’s hectic and distraught life be fixed
Without me to trigger the avalanche of their disasters
The world would not even be any different with me gone
And no one would even notice for a second that I was not around,
The years I have spent striving to try to reach the ultimate goal of perfection
Which has left me a frail pile of just skin and bone,
But who makes the unrealistic standards that must be met to achieve happiness,
No matter what sweet poetic like words or actions I would make
It always seems like someone was always there to criticize me with every step that I would take,
As the derogatory remarks ate slowly at my self esteem
Like maggots upon fresh meat,
I realized that the goal of perfection is an unconquerable mountain
That no one will ever be able to defeat,
As my trembling hand drops the rusty razor
I finally realize that I am happy with myself for being imperfect
And it doesn’t matter what others think about me
My imperfections make me the unique person that I am.


As I stared out the round passenger window
Fluffy marshmallow clouds floated past
As the only memories I had of her played like a movie in my mind
The smell of lavender and roses filled my nose
As I laid her down in her wooden cedar crib on her first night home,
My little baby girl giggling loudly as our new chocolate lab puppy
Licked the baby food that was spilt on her tummy,
The first time she rolled over she was her trying to grasp her teddy in her hands,
But then I was torn away from my precious baby girl
And all I could see of her was the pictures that I received through the mail,
As the two year Iraq tour had finally came to a close
I boarded the air liner to return home,
The stairs folded down to what looked to be paradise
As my little girl came running into my arms
And her baby blue eyes looked like diamonds in the rays from the sun
We are finally together again
To make new memories as a family

Kayla Willis
Death of the Black Star

During dark reasoning
The night, our conspirator
Rose against the black star
Her own children

Purposefully unashamed
The ruler of the first black
Our night
Without remorse
Aborted her black stars
Keeping only the cloud and moon at peace
As the decorators of heaven

Loosed from home
Like a detached stranger
Released from the love once demanded
The black star turns to weeping
Spiraling like a dying bird
Towards the unaware

Don’t wish upon the fallen black star
For your wishes will bore death
Never to come true
The broken winged flyers
Disconnected with the earth
Gravity holds them no more

One by one
Black stars fall by the millions
Crashing among us
We that let them fall
With a thud, they cover the earth

The black rain will ruin us all
It has already begun
The travesty of the black star

The tragedy is not that of living so high
And falling so far
But to have lived so high
Yet never glow
Rotted early of their radiance
The black star was exiled from the sky

Already the night claimed the dark expanding
Found nothing extraordinary about them.
Plummeting to an untimely death,
Unwanted, abandoned,
Death of the black star.

It has already begun,
Beneath our feet,
Black stars slumber,
Their sleep disturbing,
Like fish ashore.

Their death has become a path we walk on.
A path we walk over.
Their fate, a mere residue,
Found on the soles of our shoes.

Before Africa

Snow was beautiful to me
I was always overcome by it
The brightness of it, demanding you to attend to it
Take notice upon it and admire its white
A color that strong
She could still the beautiful right out of you
Its soft flakes would melt on the tip of your tongue
And you’re frozen
In awe of her coldness
Some found her chill appealing
Her dangerous nature goes un-rendered
And too many, her season is favored
Desired by most

Before Africa
Snow added wonderful to whatever she landed upon
Making it somehow prettier than what it was before
The way she rested on a bare branch
Like she was royal cloth wrapped around a peasant
It was a bony plain tree
But when she aided to it
It looked magical
Enchanting it with her whimsical powers
Her sparkle lit the tree
So you would assume it better off

Before Africa
Nothing compared to snow
Than something changed
I was in Africa struck in amazement at the beach
It was late November in Durban, South Africa
There was no hint of snow
Just sand
It was warm from the sun
I let my curious toes feel into it
Searching through it
Finding rocks and sea shells
My feet bled into the sand
Camouflaging themselves within it
Along with the other bodies that surrounded me
Sand clung to each one of them
Not to outshine them but to be a part of them
Molding herself onto us
So we could all be beautiful together

Snow never suited me
It made my feet numb
Its blinding white light made my eyes squint
I always stood out
My dark skin
Next to such white

Before Africa
It was all I knew
But once the sand warmed me
I had forgotten all about winter

Tales of a Poor Boy

Blisters rule over his tired dirt ridden feet.
His path is never on course.
Instead he crisscrosses and zigzags his way to a stranger.
Draped in rags that dangle effortlessly from his skin,
And with every slight movement,
A piece of cloth finds another excuse to remove itself from his body.
Uncovering his fragile flesh,
The bones ache to be free,
Poking at his skin,
Penetrating his body with force,
Angering itself to the surface.
His body now operates like that of a machine,
That is slowly running out of power,
But somehow keeps functioning out of shear will to survive.
He knows only his small thirst for change.
His sister paces with the same routine except she supports a newborn on her back,
And they roam together, through the endless sea of sidewalks.
Hoping to greet a willing giver,
It is midnight and their weary eyes keep searching, keep asking.
They wait in silence as their onlooker pears at them in pity or disgust,
Debating if reaching in their pockets is worth their time,
Unaware that their choice is a matter of life and death.
Some give kindly, proud of the good deed for the day.
Others tell them to get a job or go to school.
Leaving them helpless, pleased with their generous advice.
But the child does not know such language,
Just yes or no.
Anything beyond this is hopeless to him.
Money is the key he has learned.
No parents to help him.
Maybe they left or maybe they died.
Looking in those eyes, I would be unable to tell.
Nothing resides in them.
The innocence and joy left him long ago.
Pain and suffering is all he knows,
Along with the hustle of the night.
This burden is far too great for such a poor boy.
I wanted to scream but relented,
I knew my scream would surely last forever.
Life as we all know it to be, is unfair,
Not discriminating on age, gender, or race,
It targets whomever it wishes.
So harsh even on this poor boy.
But I hope this child,
Will find a way of freedom,
Of this pain and suffering,
This night he does not belong in.
I settled within myself that I will see him again.
In heaven I propose.
And there he will be,
His eyes filled with everything glorious,
And happiness is all that he knows.


The intrigue of pretty green
Makes the saliva runneth over
The thirst lingers until we are all mad with it
Our spirit laid to rest
The dead swallow our hidden dreams
For their ancestors did the same
Awake child
Open your reckless eyes and take notice upon yourself
See what a spectacle you have become
To die and be resurrected
But look, you are still dead
Only you are just a vessel
Filled with nothingness
Just an empty pity
Standing hopelessly like a dumb caucus
On that assembly line
Dying for your turn at your precious zombie’s chocolate
The hunger stinging your throat
Like needles scratching
Going only where the blood runs
Immersed in debt and bills
Our bodies have long gave way
Such weary fragile shells
But the will to suffer on quietly continues
The body has no other choice but to function
With our decrepit feet
We’ll walk until out toes fall off
All in the name of those dead presidents
We’ll all chase after it
Until the bullet forges its way through our head


Prickling my flesh
A feverish delight
An eruption boils forth
Overwhelming reason with rash thought
Consuming my once tamed nature
Into an awakening of savagery
I have come to wreak havoc
On a soul willingly to be utterly overtaken
And wholly consumed
Let my flames envelope you
The heat will merely warm your fears
Isolate you from the rest of the world
Into my ecstasy you dwell

Sun Kiss

Sun-kissed sky
Orange warmth
Pink breath
Filled above
A private love
Exposed above us
Color consumed clouds
Keep floating
Keep roaming
The sky is maddened with life
Its blue churning
Making anew
More colors
Until the sun sets
And the kiss
Is over

Sharday Cage

Friday, July 2, 2010

Alex Van Ness in Jail By James W. Hritz

The storm: the cold wind carrying piercing rain, the tree brushing against itself, the rich odor of compost, the night glinted in dark blue.
He stood at the front door, Alex Van Ness, his musty clothes soaked and streaming from the shoulders, dripping steadily at the cusps, falling taps on the dry concrete landing beneath the crimson awning.
The door absorbed his knuckles and barely a sound was borne. He tried, then, the brass knocker, whose inscription read not the name of Alex’s obsession focus, but that of the previous resident, Irish and terse. The rap of the brass cried sharply its declaration through the thick wood. Alex stood back a step and waited, his eyes ardently planted on the knob.
When it turned and receded, Alex’s eyes lingered, anticipating a shrill, feminine voice which exclaimed: “Alex, oh my god, what are you doing here? You…you know you should not have come here. Not tonight, especially not tonight!”
“I’m all wet, do you mind if I come in for a minute?” Alex replied flatly.
“You know I don’t buy that bait-and-switch bullshit. Besides, you aren’t going to be here but a minute, so there’s no need for innuendos. That’s not why you’re here, to get dry…HA! So let’s have it then! Say what you came here to say, right now, not one step closer, not one second longer. You absolutely will not be getting in this house! Not tonight, not ever again! So say it, Alex, say it!”
“I’ve come to…”
“I told you that I will never…so don’t start with…”
Alex reached behind him, threading his hand through the layers of his overcoat and shirts, grasped firmly the cold, black butt of his gun, pulled it out quietly, and placed it firmly to his temple.
“Alex, no!”
Through a stern mask of calm Alex looked skyward, exhaled deeply, and pulled the trigger. The cock landed like a sharp finger snap against an unsuspecting ear. The violent recoil brought the gun down to waist-level while still hanging from Alex’s hand.
“Oh my god!” the woman screamed and stood momentarily gazing at the still mass before her, wholly seized by fear.
But the gun had not discharged, however, and Alex drew his eyes down now to view the locked pistol.
“Oh my god!” the woman again screamed and slammed the door. She ran to the kitchen, retrieved the cordless phone from the tiled counter and dialed 911.
Alex stood still looking disjointedly at the black weight in his hand for several moments before skulking down upon the landing and bursting into tears. There he stayed, sobbing consistently with his knees to his chest, until the police arrived and ducked him into the squad car.

At the station, Alex was processed, fingerprinted digitally, photographed, interviewed, led to a holding area, and sat next to a long row of payphones with instructions on how to dial collect.
The series of stalls that encompassed the phones were colored pink, and indeed the whole room was painted a similar shade of dirty pink except for the green cardboard tiles of the drop ceiling lined with several installations of soft-humming florescent lights, as well as the two restroom placards which were royal blue.
Alex looked around this room after finally coming out of himself—taking mental notes of the speckled carpet, the wrought ergonomic chairs, and the foot-high stage to which all the chairs were facing. Half a dozen other individuals of both sexes were smattered among the six rows, all of them staring at the stage except for a woman sitting next to Alex, whom he had just noticed.
“What are you in here for?” the gangly woman asked when Alex met her adolescent gaze.
“Aggravated Harassment, you?”
“What’d you blow?”
“Enough to get me here. Jackass!”
“Right, sorry, I didn’t mean… Nevermind.”
“Who do you think you are, asking me that?! How would you have liked it if I had asked you who you were stalking? Please!”
“I wasn’t stalking any… Nevermind, you’re right, I just…”
“I mean, this is some personal information that I don’t have to share with anyone, you know? But you, you go right out there and ask it! I bet you’re some sort of assassin guy, stalking the governor so you can learn enough about his daily regiments so that you can shoot him while he’s in line at Starbucks in order to impress some high school English teacher that you had the hots for back in the late nineties!”
“I’m sorry, miss, I…”
“You didn’t even ask me my name! You could have at least asked me my name before prying away at the inner workings of my misspent youth, still currently in progress. I mean, we may be in jail, but that doesn’t mean that we have to forego all semblances to honor and civility and manners.”
“You’re right, I’m…”
“You are a jackass, man! I don’t think I want to talk to you anymore. No, I’m going to go sit by the bathrooms and talk to myself.”
The woman stormed off and sat across the room, next to restrooms as she had promised, and in watching her, Alex had the curious feeling that he had lost an ally, though he could not account for such a notion.
Fortunately, Alex did not have long to dwell upon the strange rawness he felt as one of the guards was taking the stage and calling everyone to pay attention.
“And now we would like to bring up a special guest to the stage to perform for everybody. He is from the YMCA over on Broadway, and he’s someone who has become a regular part of the facilities here which we like to refer to as a family, although he’s not really considered a family member so much as someone like a member of the maintenance staff whom you only know by name while having little regard for their personal lives outside of this place. Anyways… Please let’s give a hand, all of you, for Mr. Widget, The Galloping Clown!”

Alex cringed bemused as he witnessed a Picasso-esque harlequin bound onto the stage. Mr. Widget was dressed in a checkered blue and rose-colored jumpsuit; the suit had exaggerated shoulders coming to isosceles points; his jowly face bore paint also in blue and rose, divided asymmetrically by a lightning bolt of naked flesh; his head was shaved on the rose-colored half of the sphere while on the blue-colored half his hair was dyed yellow and gelled stiff like a checkmark. The man behind the clown get-up was portly and his belly protruded at least a foot past the confines of his chest, Alex estimated. His bare feet were marked with varicose throbbing veins beneath the short ankles.

“Mr. Widget thanks you,” the officer said, acknowledging the harlequin’s bows. “Now, our friend, Mr. Widget, does not have many words that have been given to him, so I will be granting him some of mine. Please don’t be too harsh, my commentary is minimal, but it means a lot to our friend, Mr. Widget, here. So now, let’s get on with the show!”

The wiry, adolescent drunk driver began clapping and hollering—she was the only one. Alex sat back and tried to focus on something else, but all he could find were the collect dialing instructions, which he tried reading two dozen times but was too distracted by the peculiar scene he was now witness to.
“Mr. Widget will start by doing impressions of the creatures of the wild. Would anybody like to see him do an orangutan?”
“Me, me, me,” cried the woman from near the bathrooms.
The clown sunk down on his haunches, crooked his back, puffed out his lips, and unbuttoned a trap door to his costume to reveal his red-painted ass cheeks. Within seconds he had assumed the mannerism and demeanor of a placated ape.
“Beat your chest,” hollered the woman and the clown acquiesced. “Now grunt.”
“Throw your feces,” shouted the odorous man directly in front of Alex. He was promptly taken from the room by two officers whom were waiting off to the sides of the stage. “Good, I want to go, you’re doing me a favor!”
“Sorry about that folks, there’s always one who has to try and ruin things for everyone else. Now, let’s see who Mr. Widget will imitate next.”
The clown accepted the officer’s reparations and, taking two carrots from his pocket, laid on the ground and started braying like a walrus.
“There’s a seal, there’s a seal, play with him,” said the woman whom Alex thought now was seeing the animals in actuality.
“Alright, that was fantastic. Now, does anybody else have any suggestions?”
“I wanna see a giraffe, mommy,” the woman meekly pleaded.
“Um… I’m not sure if that can be done… Can you do a giraffe, Mr. Widget? Okay, apparently he can! This should be good.”
Mr. Widget, on all fours, stuck his head up haughtily.
“I don’t know, that doesn’t really look like a…”
But before the officer could finish, the clown dislocated both of his shoulders which freed up an extra foot to resemble an elongated neck.
“Whoa, he did it, look at that…a giraffe! Oh what a treat, I’ve never seen that before! Amazing. Simply amazing!”
Alex could not stand the farce any longer and he began shouting for someone to take him away.
The officer in charged answered, but he didn’t have anything good to offer:
“Get him out of here! What? We don’t have any cells left? Well put a muzzle on him then, will ya?”

Forced to watch now, Alex tried to pummel his brain with every available image he had repressed over the years: his grandmother’s frequent nipple slips, walking in on his parents in fermented throes, the slipped guts of his teenage compatriot impaled upon a fence post after they were running away from a love-in gone wrong when herpes was discovered. Horrible, horrible things.
“What will you do next? What’s that…a bull? So now…a bull.”
Alex, gave up, he decided he’d have enough of life—a life that involved mimic harlequins, apathetic counselors, rainy days, jammed pistols, everything extraneous. He rose and made for the restroom.
“Hey, where do you think you’re going?”
“BaƱo, sir,” he managed though now muffled.

The officer waved the guards off and Alex nodded condescendingly, knowing that he would never have to look at another totalitarian asshole in a uniform.
With the door closed safely behind, Alex squirmed his mouth loose from the muzzle with a great strain but also quickly. Next, he started looking around for an implement of self-destruction. But the bathroom was prepared for such despair, having nothing jagged, blunt or loose. There was nothing; Alex had to improvise.
A urinal cake of royal blue became a mouthful of breath mints and promised to restrict the airflow more than enough. Alex removed the toilet paper roll, shoving it into the open spaces of the muzzle. Finally, he pulled off his shirt and tied it tightly around his mandible then held his head between his legs until his brain started to tingle and he couldn’t even see fuzzy.

Alex regressed into a pastoral meadow beside two rounded hills which perfectly resembled enhanced breasts topped with tufts of areola rose brush. Beneath his feet and spreading across acres were blades of verdant Styrofoam which rebounded and resisted the bare-shodden feet. The fields reached far, pulling in birds from the descending sky, until they dead-ended into a wall postered over with scenes of the Pacific Ocean near Big Sur.

On his hands and knees prone, Alex searched through the polymer lawn for something to inflict immense damage on his skull. The field, after several hours, however, yielded nothing. Frustrated, Alex sat and clinched his eyes tight. He focused on materializing an object: “A gun would be nice, but a rock will do.”
When he opened his eyes before him was a stack of spherical rocks three feet high of descending circumference, pebbles at the top and foot-round stones at the bottom.
The stack, he thought, was too perfect. And so, in order to preserve the integrity of the imaginary gifts bestowed upon him, Alex started swallowing the smaller ones, one by one, in search of that perfect rock which would inflict the seismic strike to end the phantasm. Finally, he had gotten to where he needed. He palmed the appropriate rock, which was about the size of a grapefruit, measured its inertia, and slammed it against his temple, dislodging a major burden from within himself as a genus of singular-chromatic butterflies spilt out, borne on the synaptic waves of unlimited romanticism.

Disjointed, Alex watched for as long as he could as the fluttering splotches of color dove and dipped, trailing out like brushfire smoke, off into the distance. And yet, the stone had loosed not only the winged beauty within the morose Alex but also the man from himself. No longer was he to be bound to that desire to destroy his bodily inheritance—whether he had done it in a dream or standing in front of his therapist, his Solomonic mind registered the deed as if his brains were actually losing fluids fast enough to shut down for good. Thus, freed from his bodily girth, Alex caught up with and then hitched a ride with the lepidopteran jet-stream, following the billowing rabble of hue. He was able soon to look back and see himself sitting motionless, slunk, agape, a Polaroid picture film pressed upon a textured backdrop.

It was like staring at himself through a foggy window, wisps of breath clouding the glass, making the flowers fade in luminance. We have all been desensitized to the pressure and sharpened lances of the world. Swinging maces and funny faces, children are bred to ignore all that stings: to make comedy of tragedy, comedy of the mundane, comedy of what is already and has long been scripted. Against this, Alex was nurturing his own fiat words of the mind hallucinating freely, immersed in images which are beyond dreams, in conversation with his self, allowing words that had to come out, usually in song, to strike shrill, like a crash of glass and anxiety of ruinous dead shattering, and leave behind: a perfect, serene moment.
At times he was overtly aware of himself and felt futility in merely floating there, but these moments were in passing. He was certain that, though his present would garner no immediate results, he would eventually—like a fetus, whose prone position his hollowed out former body had assumed—ascend to great deeds in a rush of blood and viscera and breaking daylight. This he could accept. And he rapidly found the courage to bring himself to stand again on the Styrofoam Earth his mind had created in protection of itself, unsatisfied but serene. He brushed off the butterfly flakes from his chest, dried his tears with his palms, straightened his genitals, patted down his hair, arched his back, cracked his pre-rheumatic knuckles and breathed. Alex approached his wasted body, scooped a drink from a puddle near the opened cranium and once more took in the vista. He wished later that he could say that everything looked anew, the artificial greens more vibrant, the crashing distant Pacific louder, the winds and the birds more sonorous—but he did not experience these revelations. Instead, he recognized and saluted the old him for its steadfastness when he was drifting anchorless.

Before he was ready to leave, he thought he’d try to create some more creatures to populate his subconscious fields. Alex called back to the minutes before his hallucination and tried to seize upon the impressions Mr. Widget had wiggled out on stage. Alex closed his eyes and imagined baboons trudging along the farthest foothills. When he looked up, sure enough, a troop of red asses could be witnessed sunning on some cliffs while others approach them. He closed his lids again and soon saw giraffes striding toward him around the bend coming out from behind the other mountain. And thereafter, walruses could be heard off in the distance near the photo crags at Bixby Creek.
Then, a notion occurred at which Alex laughed wickedly, and, after quickly reflecting upon it further, he suddenly believed he had had his calling thrust upon him by circumstance as the idea of animal parody seemed like the only reliable option left to him.
Thus, after forcing himself to wake up, dragging his blood-rushed body out from the mucked up restroom without wiping his faint-blue mouth, sitting heavily in the nearest chair, ignoring the interrogation of the guards, and disregarding the stares of the curious inmates, he turned his attention again to the contorting harlequin on stage—to study his methods.
Bleak Sisters

We were as bleak as sisters then,
the breaking ice made us free,
but we had to explain
trips to the gynecologist
aren’t hot dates
when they turn us on.
Our spoons were empty,
and we were tickled for the first time,
we thought we had a chance in hell.
We said our I love yous without glancing up
winced at those cold hands.
We were in a rape scene
I was the emperor
and you were my clothes
and you were the queen
and you were the castle.
Our glow was gone,
we thought about moving on

Every High School Cock

I was in high school
and every hairy cock I sucked
woke me up a little,
The boys were all birds of prey
and it was easy
to take them up on their offers,
But I got bored
and to cum was just to cum
after all,
My mom caught me one morning
masturbating on my knees
in my bedroom,
I never slept in that room again
without the aid
of a pill

Lone Range

I’ve spent a long time squeezing into small spaces
holding breath shallow so not to shake the bed.
It’s been a pattern of holding and halting
oppressive and vibrating locks of beating heart
waiting. I’ve spent a long time creeping down hallways
with guilt its own incrimination in salt secured
valleys. No recourse for innocence, I paid to find.
I spent a long hallway visiting a friend who never laughed
and braying at the sound of silence, I saw barriers.
Walls with flagrant invisibility and I’m surrounded.
Take not your breath into chambers, run like swallows of air.
Tell that joke again, the one about the war.

Christine Pemberton

Helpless I do not know if good intentions prevail among the elected, among the appointed, leaving me apprehensive that the fate ...