The Hermit

The pool is easy to fall into
when you’re fourteen. You’re
riding the late bus home
from school scribbling song
lyrics into your homework
caught up in the rough
play of the day. Out
the window, the desert works
its slow desiccation. The Rockies
say they don’t mind the solitude
and you wonder if it’ll be
the same for you.

At your feet, a discarded flyer
intrudes. It is stomped and wet
and torn. Warped as it is, and unruly,
it grabs you by the arm, leans in
close and secret. The print, blurry
from the sweat of emotion,
tells you that in a few years you’ll
slip into a love so deep that you’ll
swim for the comfort of
drowning. In the fine print,
like an afterthought, is the abstract
of your dissertation, and the last word
you’ll ever utter aloud.

Two weeks later you’re standing under
a tarped dome, on the slippery edge
of a watery field, where concrete
and chlorine come to kiss, wearing
less than you will the first time
you touch her, shivering and sweating
and beating your heart
into movement. In a splash

your college years are gone. In twenty
seconds the entirety of your life.
In the dense mist you can’t distinguish
your own voice from the rhythmic
slap and glide of time. You
can no longer think
without the muffled
harmonics of the deep. And you
marvel at how beautiful
the clock is, with its solitary hand in
that easy sweep of her face. And you
keep coming back to
the bulkhead in the lane, how it
lies. How it promises you a safe
place to turn in to. How it says one
more time will be enough and you
can rest.

Alone and covered in that grey cloak
of age, you pull yourself
out of the pool in a single sweeping
stroke and stand in the morning
air, glad they’ve torn down the tent.
The mountains in the distance
show a bit of ice, and you think you
could swim them. The light from a
single lamp at the top
of the guard tower flares out like
a star. A teen in red shorts drops
the shepherd’s staff
and startles himself awake. You
reach to where it is fallen
and lift it up.

Sherre Vernon believes in the mystical power of words. She is the author of Green Ink Wings, a postmodern novella, and The Name is Perilous, a poetry chapbook. Her poetry has been published in various journals including The Pedestal Magazine and Eclipse.