I saw a dark-haired traveler on his way

Past homes and valleys deep into the night;

We passed and passing had no words to say

As he walked from and I into the light.

My journey was but minutes, and it passed,

His - who can say but he how long it'd last?

I think back to the day I saw him go

Sometimes and realize I just don't know:

Though I'm content now living as I do

I never went forth out beyond these walls;

I’ve walked the same roads, stepped the same steps too

And heard them ringing blind in hollow halls.

These hands, now wrinkled and death's pallid white,

Were once fit testament of future bright;

Now all the furrows can't but demonstrate

That journeys now would be begun too late.

I bore the normal life of people's wont -

But who can say if it were smartly done?

I have no mighty trophy from some hunt,

Some wrested dragon skull by valor won.

I could divine some worth to my spent times

Were I to value how my power climbs,

Yet I can't say that any of that worth

Means anything when I am in the earth.

I found no reasons easily in thought

And sought amid the seasons for reply.

* * *

An ancient man did pass me on the road,

‘midst falling snow and rough-hewn tracks of sky;

He walked with purpose through this winter’s lode

Although he looked as though he soon would die.

I do not know what drove him on his trek,

Huge miles past any shelter for the cold,

His hands benumbed, his gear a tawdry wreck

And face bedotted by harsh winter bold.

Through all those cuts and numbness lay a glow,

An unrelenting force lodged in his eyes;

I saw it plain yet still could scarcely know

Of what such pow’rful force could be comprised.

That blue metallic glint was my first view

Of one man striving ‘gainst the world anew.

* * *

I held that moment through each icy tread,

Each frigid footstep placed flat on the ground;

I watched the scene with eyes inside my head

When I had lost the joy in what I’d found.

I’d happiness and slow contented days,

Long restful hours and food whene’er I’d need;

Somehow my mind repulsed this ease of ways

And bid me go far from where life would lead.

Long days I’ve slipped through snow and wandered doubt,

My old age taxed and limbs unfairly strained,

Pressed ever forward and with mighty shout

Tried to reveal my destined true refrain.

Each hour brings me closer to a right

To burn fore’er with my own inner light.

* * *

That old man came from his sojourning trek,

His burd’ning age no longer weighing down;

He told us how, when but a tattered wreck

He’d found an answer to his life’s plain brown.

‘I trudged unceasing hours, it seemed,’ he said,

‘and soon the snow looked like a downy bed;

all nestled in’t and out of winter’s grip

I would have shortly ended my great trip –

Yet somehow I refrained from my desire

And gathered strength reserves unknown to me;

Within me will resolved to not retire

I caught a glimpse of what I’d wished to see.

Here I was not a useless pile of man,

An aged clock that, wound, still never ran;

I had the power still to carry on

Although there seemed no life to tarry on.

Why does it matter so what has been done?

T’should matter more what sentiment has won

Through all the days and hours of our years,

Or whether we’ve lived smiling or with tears.

Don’t make the same mistake I did,

Don’t look upon your life with outward eye;

Such viewing on’t will leave it fully rid

Of what makes it so lively and its why.”

His talk brought on his death and I was left

Reflecting, reft of certainty in thought.

Author's Notes/Comments: 

This is the longest poem I've ever written... I'm tempted to say best, but that would be to judge my own work, which I shall not do (at least in this little box).  It's worth the read, anyway, I'd say.

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Christopher Thomas's picture

I remember this poem! Lol.