(A Mountain Hermit Trilogy)
This high up, winter
sets in early, leaves late.
I have no complaint.
I liked the light,
and so I settled here.
A small fire,
twigs and dried grass –
my few books long ago
bestowed their kindling grace.
The lure of the unknown
no longer coincides with some
urgent need for reasons or justifications —
all of that is the usual business of knowing,
but I’ve closed up that shop for the duration.
Stalking my own mortality
like a light-hunting night moth,
it is as I suspected: I am
what I’ve pursued.
The futility of all effort:
when I turn around,
Turning back again,
I find myself everywhere.
The phosphorescent trail
traced by a snail in damp moonlight —
a map on slick moisture, the pilgrimage
from me to myself, transparently revealed.
Though everything born
is destined to eventually die,
a mysterious presence endures.
If you seek to align with it,
you have already abandoned it.
If you try to attain it
by always following others,
you’re cutting off your own legs.
Everywhere I travel,
I always meet the same one,
the one I am, yet I am not that one.
That one aimlessly breezes along
like a curious wind through rustled pines,
while I just recline in the meadow, caressed
by the crickets’ lulling songs, sifting me
into the vast oncoming night.
The perfection of this moonlight’s seduction
does not go unsung by the awed nocturnal voices,
now raised in a choir of synchronous harmony
no artifice of pious chant can equal.
Draped in luminous vestments of star-shine,
the night slowly disrobes and remembers itself
all over again, in the same way I recall myself,
embraced by the welcoming vastness.
This way of self-remembering —
now unmistakably clear with impersonal truth,
then relaxing, letting go, and forgetting that too . . .
Cutting off all my hair was easy.
Relinquishing schemes of renunciation
is a much steeper path to tread.
I came a long way to forget myself,
forgetting the one who remembers.
Having roamed this wide world
from mountain to shore for more years
than I care to count, my journey itself
may have been in vain, yet there’s
wisdom found in failure too.
The road’s red dust still clings to my clothes,
but merciful tears have washed my eyes
clear of despair and regret.
I have always been grateful for water.
I lean back here against the crumbling wall
of a long-abandoned ruin, eyes brimming anew
with sudden tears, now woven with the wind
that swirls a blanket of cricket peace
around my shoulders.
What is there left to say —
so many frosted moonlit nights
cascading now behind me, sitting here
amidst chill mists, mystified by dawn.