A journeyman arrived one evening
From afar, the dusty road extending
Like his shadows; worn boots, worn face,
Weary eyes looking into space,
He was singular among the throng,
As if knowing he did not belong;
He saw me staring, he stopped his stride;
I held his gaze, I was just outside
The only inn in town, The Ransom was its name,
My father’s owned it before me; he came
Toward me, as I knew he would,
Inquiring for a room, a small one, if he could;
I told him the attic was the smallest, but quite clean,
“That would do,” he nodded and went in;
He followed me into the cozy gloom,
‘Twas autumn ending, the latest bloom
Was browning in the branch, and then the snow
Would follow; the crowd that night was slow,
And counting the stranger, that made five guests:
Three of them regular, merchants with vests
Of velvet and rings of gold, the other one
Was likewise a traveler, a woman;
She was dining near the fire when we entered,
She arrived last night, her motion hampered
By a limp; but now she looked rested;
She raised her head, and hesitated
At the sight of the newcomer, who simply nodded
At her direction and then invested
His sparse belongings to the serving boy
Who ushered him upstairs; was it joy
That i saw spark in the weary woman’s eyes?
I was looking at her direction, i saw her rise
And come to me, asking after the traveler,
I told her he came with the sunset, just like her,
“I see,” she said,“then i must leave,”
‘The night is cold,’ i told her; she replied, “I’ll live,”
I followed her outside; the autumn evening
Still showed a sliver of sun, an orange lining
In the horizon, and the first stars
Were peeking from the darkening sky, sparse
Clouds revealed a sliver moon,
And the woman pointed to it, saying “soon
The night would swallow the waning crescent, and the sky
Shall banner the stars like diamonds that fly,”

I said, ‘the stars only show their might
In the absence of that greater light;’

She smiled and nodded, “you speak truth,
But what else would you use, forsooth,
To guide your steps when that light leaves you
In the middle of a long journey? it is true
That in the darkness, you learn to hold on
To the smallest of lights, and then go on;
I leave tonight, for he has arrived,
And i am not yet ready to be his wife.”

It was an hour or so later, I was still outside
When i heard somebody walk to stand by my side;
‘You knew who she was and you did not prevent
Her from leaving,’
i said, “wherever she went
I would not gainsay it, it was her choice,”

the stranger replied, adding “i cannot give voice
Against her will, but i will always follow,
Besides, there is always another tomorrow;
But tonight i can sleep and i can rest
Because i have seen her face again, the test
Does not end with finding her and holding fast,
But rather when she stops to wait for me at last;
Behold the night, the stars are shining brightly
And i know she is safe; i love her dearly,
And someday she will learn that i don’t give up the wait;
One day she will turn, early or late,
It does not matter to me,
She knows how i gave her the stars to be
Her light in the times of her lonely journeys in the dark,”

I nodded, ’she will learn, but not too late, i hope,’ “the spark
Still burns in her breast, where i placed it,”
he said,
‘You and your metaphors; you have bled
For a thankless woman;’
he shrugged, “I chose her,
And my promises always last forever.”

‘I wish her safe journey, then; what was her name again?’
“Israel, friend Time, Israel,”
answered the Son of Heaven.

—by squee (revised 12/8/2005 11:03 pm)


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