Shade-Tree Philosopher

“Listen here, young man,” he said,
A glint of pride in his eye,
“I’ve seen the sky change color;
I’ve seen it pass from blue to gray to green
And back again. I’ve felt its presence, felt the
Wind, faced the storms, faced them down:
I’ve stood when other men have drowned.”

“I’ve sailed the Seven Seas, my friend,”–
He tapped his graying brow–
“In spirit if not otherwise. I’ve seen the world
Through many eyes. Pages yellowed, cracked with age–
The words of fools, proverbs sage. Pictures painted
In the mind; false conceptions undermined and built anew,
Some convenient, fewer true.”

“I’ve seen the face of Death, young man,
A face of many guises. Many a glimpse of
Light I’ve seen, even as the darkness rises.
It is no threat, the end’s approach, it is no curse,
No grim reproach, if only those who face it know
It cannot kill, nor overthrow, a life lived well.”
He smiled, then, as evening fell.

He left me standing in the road, and as the moon rose,
Gibbous, at my back, I remained in silence, lost in thought;
I weighed his words, wondered if I ought to write them down.
These things I’d heard, they seemed so wise and full of meaning.
And then I heard the sound of singing. The feast’s begun and I am late–
I must be off. All this can wait.