The Sage on His Mountain

by Adam Cooper

the sage on his mountain,
weary of pleasure, picks up his stones
and moves them around:
thoughts and ideas, worn smooth by
his palms, each snag and bulge evened,
until they are all the same.

his mountain is tall, and gets gradually taller,
he wakes in the morning and
dines on his dreams.
they drop from the dawn, wrinkled but sweet,
still warm from the night before.
he finishes and steps into the air.
rays rake his face, the light burns his skin,
but he has long ceased to peel.

he walks back and forth on the mountain side,
cicada shells crunching beneath his feet.
no insect could survive at this height alive:
these shells make their own shells,
over and over, without life inside.
there is no thing that is not a memory.

from time to time pilgrims seek him out,

rising like mist from the forest below.
yet all mist is invisible when close at hand
and all words in his mouth taste like ashes now.
so the pilgrims drift back to where they come from,
where innocence redeems itself,

and the sage returns to his stones.
he picks them up, places them here and there,
turns them ceaselessly in his fingers.
the stones are handled so much they get
smaller and smaller,
and all wisdom is ultimately small.

there are still times when even he,
coaxed by sensory episodes,
feels as though he has grasped some larger truth
before remembering, finally, he has only let go
of a small one.

Adam Cooper of Rockville, Maryland has been writing off and on for many years, primarily poetry and microfiction. He spends most of his year teaching a Montessori classroom and enjoys playing oboe with great feeling and virtually no talent at all.  During his coveted, swampy summers he plays hi-error tennis and occasionally manages to get away to climb rotting pyramids in Mesoamerica. Year-round he is a husband, and father to one eight-year-old daughter.