(Xavier Li/Unsplash)

Days before the lame-duck hermit left, the trees
withdrew into their caverned carapace of bark.
The clouds gazed down aloofly, shrugged,
the moon shucked off its cryptic gleams,
the rains were only rains again, not drops of manna.

When a play’s run ends, the stage hands
cart away the painted fronts, the rented furniture.
The actors strip off their makeup,
trade their costumes for a sweatshirt and jeans,
exit the stage door, hail a cab home.

So too the hermit returned in the end
to the sooty city. But when he rubbed
the soot from his eyes,
a veil of self-pity had wondrously lifted,
and the skyline gleamed like a cryptic moon.

Richard Schiffman is an environmental journalist, poet, and author of two biographies. In addition to appearing in Commonweal, his poems have been published in the Alaska Quarterly, the New Ohio Review, the Christian Science Monitor, the New York Times, Writer’s Almanac, This American Life in Poetry, Verse Daily, and other publications. His first poetry collection, What the Dust Doesn’t Know, was published in 2017 by Salmon Poetry.

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Published in the March 2022 issue: View Contents
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