The Wanderer

He was only a nomad, as many attest,
so not to worry whence fell the blow
that broke his quest and struck him low.

Nothing was found in the aftermath,
though many searched the misty paths
hoping to uncover the slightest hint
that one existed with such a craft.

This farce began when long ago
a yearly fair was thence decreed
by the ruler of that wooded realm,
ensconced within his armored keep.

The people though, ever oblivious
to the rigidity of their plight,
beheld this event with the complaisant fervor
that appeasements oft incite.

Beneath the shadowy arches of leafy boughs
hung paper lanterns, haphazardly strewn,
twisting in the winds from leaden clouds;
casting light in dazzling hues.

Groups paraded to and fro,
shallow dandies oft to crow
and strut betwixt the silhouettes
of dancers with their limbs aglow.

Trade was brisk throughout the night,
lovers paid lovers led in tow,
masquerades to cover up
the darkness in their soul.

Swirling sparks were cast in flight,
tempting angels spun and rolled,
a greasy magician yet to swindle
a piece or two of gold.

Amidst the sounds of desperate laughter,
pipes and drums and flutes were merged
into an ever roaring tidal surge
of merriment unmastered.

Within a clearing, tucked away,
a bonfire snapped, cracked, and swayed,
bathing all in lurid light
as the drunkards drank their pay away.

No one noticed his arrival,
a bent old man, gnarled with time,
quietly intent on the glowing embers;
torments reflected within his mind.

As a pebble causes ripples in a pond to spread,
time first stretched, then slowed, then stopped,
as everyone became enthralled
by the pall of utter dread.

The old man stood, stooped with age,
demonically lit by the burning coals,
observing his captive host as sage
condemner of their souls.

“See for thyself what thou hath wrought,” whispered he,
and all that were bound throughout the land, heard his words,
trembling at the fear now stirring
within their hearts, like restless birds.

The bonfire danced merrily,
straining at its bonds in glee,
popping and crackling joyfully
as its captors could not flee.

All those present within the wood
were frozen thus, a terrible jest;
their deceits; designs; desires laid bare
to all; naked to the rest.

Frigid winds began to blow,
mournfully howling betwixt the trees;
storm clouds scudded across the sky;
rumbling thunder shook the leaves.

Watching carefully, the old man waited,
wondering if he would be displaced
before the enlightenment he began
could willfully be embraced.

While a distant rumble began to grow,
a cloud of dust was seen to drift
ever nearer through the wood,
as horseman pounded across the rift.

Smiling sadly, the old man turned
to face the one as yet beguiled,
unable to fathom how one forsook
so many souls, however vile.

Long ago, before this fated confrontation,
the king suspected that a spirit dwelt
deep within his wooded realm,
never seen, though often felt.

So the king, shrewd and cunning,
devised a plan that would in time
unite the hatred of his people
by implying foul design.

He thus contrived a yearly fair;
whereby his subjects must attend
to sing and dance and set the snare
for the entrapment near the fen.

Nevertheless, year after year,
no sign of the being haunting the man
was ever found, inciting fear
and anger throughout the land.

Now though, finally,
he would have the one who plagued his nights,
chipping away at his sanity
with imaginary frights.

The king and his soldiers surrounded the spirit,
weapons to hand as they started to ride
in for the kill, poised to spear it
through the heart inside.

Before the king could slay his foe,
the old man looked to the sky in wroth,
to storming clouds through flakes of snow;
raising his blazing staff aloft.

“See for thyself what thou hath wrought!”,
the old man screamed in the rising wind,
as a bolt of lightning was thence unleashed,
blinding all as it struck him.

When sight returned to the petrified throng,
none could recall who had come
to free them from the siren song
that disillusion won.

So the king returned to his armored keep,
unsatisfied, yet again,
forever obsessing on what he had and lost;
failing to comprehend.

His people resumed their torpid lives,
unable to fathom how close they had been
to the freeing of their minds,
though all felt the ache of loss within.

He was only a nomad, as many attest,
so not to worry whence fell the blow
that broke his quest and struck him low.

(Bryan Garaventa, 2013)

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