What a Hermit Heard
Himalayan winds whip the heights above.
He lingers in the doorway,
tilts his head to see the monsoon clouds.
The low hut huddles down around him,
drawing warmth from him, vitality.
It stretches rafters, gables, walls towards him
as chilly hands stretch towards the fire.

A new wind slinks through the bamboo brakes
downslope from the silent hut.
And as the sun sinks past the blue-bleak peaks,
the young man with the trembling hand
turns inside and lights the night's first candle.

He wraps his dusty cloak around, clasps it at his waist,
sits down, straightens, slits his eyes, then waits.
Stillness fades to quiet fades to silence.
To a void of sound.

To nothing, nothing.

Then the void is broken
--by the whispered rasp of breakers
when the shore is still two sandy miles away.
--by a deadly tiger purring hunting
swiftly down a jungled brookbed.

By his breath.

is an ocean of power and destruction.
is a tiger's growl-cunning and malevolent.

.As he listens to his lifesound,
the first tendrils of fear break free.
They draw jackfrost patterns, jackfrost names
on his belly's nighted windowpanes.

                                                                         [John Barker]

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