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The Hermit in the Woods

I met a hermit where a stream diverged,
passing the hours and the minutes of day
and honing his whit he stopped to stretch, and said—
‘young man, would you give me your hand,”
            at once, I noticed the nub of his wrist
buried in a ring of flowers—pegged
stem deep into his tattered jacket’s cuff,
and in such colors as golden yellow and red
to cause a moment in me to forget.

            Opening gin, he spoke:
‘always the paradigms,
always theory before the facts,
always the constant shifting of an eye
to this, and that, and to the other thing—
paradigms, paradigms.

We sure took a climb with Albert Einstein,
            we are the children of the times!
one day the earth is flat,
one day we’re cast of clay,
one day we’re kindred of the birds,
            the next we are two snakes entwined
for millions and billions of years
until two thumbs rose from the inanimate muck.

And, have you heard the worlds a globe,
and that the plates really don’t sub-duct?
            always, always the constant shift—
paradigms, paradigms.

My boy, this hand of mine is better gone,
because, as joyous twist to your distaste
my flowered wrist has saved me twice
once from the shifting eye of public mind,
once from the collapse of worldly things,
the loss of house, my car, my silly life,
my beliefs, my paradigms.

My decent into the trees, not madness,
or the lopping of my wrist, has saved me
from cities collapsing as paradigms
and brought me to these woods
as unchanged as noble pines.’

Not wanting to be rude,
I lowered my eyes and went along,
I could not bear to tell the truth
that all the cities had already burnt
in nuclear explosions that pocked the earth.
I just smiled and went about my way,
knowing what his wrist had really saved.

© J.P.V. ∞

Spoken word version of the poem – Hermit in the Woods

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