Mountain Hermit’s Lullaby

Another season of rain and mists
leaves more blurry footprints in the mud.
Too damp for making fire, and beneath
grey skies a cold cloak has wrapped itself
around my shoulders, fits just right.

Whatever it was I sought — it’s all vague
memories now, distant spectral shadows,
private pantomimes, need I spell it out:
the inescapable futility of ambition?

I don’t remember when this mountain cave
became my home. My hands are empty still,
just as I began — only cramps and hard callouses
to show for it all, and perhaps some brief stories
to ward off the chill when night falls again,
when searching creatures curl and huddle
in the dark, when all my fleeting images
blend together, shimmer, then dissolve.

Not far away, the mesmerizing rhythms
of surging mountain stream sounds combine
to form a single voice — my own. All along,
I’ve only been talking to myself, only narrating
a story to myself about some fictional character
I’ve taken myself to be, one I’ve blithely pretended
to be in this ongoing theatrical production.

Night and day, I listened to that smooth-talking
salesman with an eager, gullible fool for a customer,
a naive one who kept falling for the same sales pitch
time and again. At last, I stopped investing in tall tales,
alluring promises, those slick persuasive come-ons.
I finally silenced that glib silver-tongued devil.
I’m just not inclined to believe him anymore.

Maybe now I’m beginning to see: whether positive,
negative, or neutral, no view I could hold is true.
There is nothing which I can conceive or grasp
that has any inherent or enduring substance.
This lovely snow which has started to fall
is but another prop in an endless dream.
I just want to lay down and sleep like a child —
for a night and a day, for a thousand lifetimes.

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