For Roger Keith Barrett
He lay all alone in his neat, little room,
That hadn't been touched by a brush or a broom;
His eyes tightly shut like a man in a tomb,
And a smile on his face like a newlywed groom.
And lying there still, as he did in his bed,
He seemed to be floating at sea now instead.
The smell of the foam blew around in his head,
As the thundering waves filled his heart up with dread.
"But how can this be? I just don't understand.
"I'm drifting at sea with no sight of the land!"
And up to his eyes he was raising his hand,
When, BUMP went the ship as it slid in the sand.
"Hooray," cried the boy. "I'm home safe at last!
"It appears that my journey at sea is now past!"
Then he climbed to the top of the uppermost mast,
And his vision, upon the green island, he cast.
But all that he saw were some trees of orange-rind,
Which he knew in his town would be quite hard to find.
"Well this isn't my home," the boy thought in his mind.
"But it must house something or someone of some kind!"
So he jumped to the sand from the deck of his boat,
And a cry of surprise promptly burst from his throat;
For there, on the beach, was a hoary old goat,
Quite pleasantly dressed in a plaid winter coat.
"My word!" gasped the boy in a whispering whine,
But smiled at the goat with his teeth all a shine.
"Well this is just great!" the goat yelled. "It's just fine!
"A visitor here at a quarter to nine!"
The grizzly, old goat fixed the boy in his stare,
But finding the child to be pleasant and fair,
Said, "Follow me boy," as he breathed in despair.
"I've got a nice house in the woods over there."
And so the two moved through a thicket of oak,
Toward a lone chimney-top and its ribbon of smoke.
And gathering nerve, for the first time he spoke,
To question the sense of the goat's, checkered cloak.
"Please tell me, dear goat," the boy asked in a jest.
"Why wear the plaid coat, or that thick, winter vest?"
"You see, boy, tonight, the sun sets in the west,
And because it won't rise, to keep warm will be best!
"Tomorrow the light of the sun will not show,
And none of us here will be warmed by it's glow.
"The piper’s declared he is not going to blow
His flute for the dawn. Could it be you don't know?"
"Oh, dear," thought the boy realizing their plight.
"This isle won't be nice without sun or sunlight.
"This piper must play! We can show him we're right.
"How grim things would seem in the blackness of night!"
They walked through the glen and the blossoming wood,
To the house in whose doorway a jackal now stood;
The stranger was dressed in a deep blue-green hood,
And yelled,"I got here just as fast as I could!
"My name is Wanbing," was the next thing he said,
As he pulled the blue hood from off top of this head.
"Poor Airk is old and I've come in his stead;
To lead you to where he lays sick in his bed.
"He says," Wanbing cried, "he will tell you the way,
"When we get to his hut later on in the day,
To the Gates of the Dawn, where the piper should play,
And he hopes that his mind you'll be able to sway."
"I will try," said the goat. To the jackal he smiled,
And turning this head he now spoke to the child:
"Old Airk, the chimp, is most senile and wild.
"Be kind to the ape, and do not get him riled."
The child softly spoke, "I'll be kind as can be.
"Most patient and quiet; just trust me, you’ll see."
"Enough of this talk," Wanbing yelled forth a plea.
"To Airk's we go, and at once we must flee!"
The jackal was young and he moved with great ease,
Descending a path through some knotty-pine trees.
The three swiftly ran in the midmorning breeze,
Until the goat coughed with a snort and a wheeze.
"I say there, Wanbing, are we nearing the place?
"You're acting as if we were running a race.
"We must rest a bit, and try slowing the pace;
"If I take one more step, I shall fall on my face!"
"It's less than a mile," the thin jackal replied;
Adjusting his hood with a whimper of pride.
"Just over this hill on the cool, shady side.
"Lies a green stream that flows rapid and wide.
"And over that," Wanbing continued to speak,
"We'll cross where the current is lazy and weak.
"To the foot of that great snowy-white mountain peak,
And the hut of old Airk, for whom we all seek."
Their resting now done, they trudged on as before,
Descending the slope to the green river's shore.
And fording the stream, in five minutes or more,
The three found themselves at the chimpanzee's door.
"Airk," he yelled. "It is Wanbing, I'm back!"
And he opened the door and they entered the shack.
And there sat the chimp who was furry and black,
Quietly chewing a banana-skin snack.
He surveyed the three, and sat up in his chair,
And spitting a peel he asked, "Who is that there?
"What manner of child with complexion so fair,
"And deep hazel eyes, and that orange-colored hair?"
"Your pardon," the goat interjected to say.
"The child is a visitor, just come today.
"He's lost all his sense of direction and way.
"Your pardon, dear sir, you will grant us, I pray!"
"I'll not," screamed the chimp, who was flipping his lid.
"‘Cause I sent for you, goat, and you bring me this kid!
"And what's the child's name?" the coarse, hairy chimp bid.
And the child cleared his throat, and he answered, "It's Syd."
"Oh, dear!" cried the chimp as he choked on a skin,
And tugged at the tuft of black hair on his chin;
Adjusting his face from a frown to a grin,
He quietly spoke, "It is time to begin."
He got to his feet, with a visible strain,
And limped to a shelf with the help of his cane.
He looked long and hard, as if racking his brain,
Then pulled forth a tome that was brown and quite plain.
He opened a leaf, and he casually read
The prophecy of an old sage who was dead.
It told of a boy, with an orange-colored head,
Who'd bring back the dawn, and that's all the book said.
"I think," guessed the ape, "if this prophecy's true ,
The boy it speaks of is none other than you!"
This cryptic remark made Syd feel very blue,
But he swallowed his fear and asked, "What shall I do?"
"I know," claimed the goat. "Since it nearly is noon,
We three better go, and we'd better go soon.
"This piper, I'm sure, won't be blowing his tune,
And the path will be hard by the light of the moon!"
"He's right!" Airk groaned, so he told them the trail,
While he nervously twitched, and he tugged at this tail.
Then, he leaned toward the three looking haggard and pale,
And whispered the words, "I will pray you don't fail."
They shook Airk's hand and they bid him goodbye,
As he wished them good luck in a tone that was dry;
Then they stepped out the door and looked up to the sky,
To the peak they would climb, at least fifty miles high.
So started their climb in the afternoon light,
At the thick mountain-base made of green malachite;
With the peak as their goal, which they kept in their sight,
As it shone 'gainst the sky, luminescent and white.
Upward they scaled as their tiredness grew,
To a height where the gusts of a chilly wind blew.
The snow rose in banks that were silver and blue,
And sparkled in spots like the sun on the dew.
T’was here they made camp, for an hour or so,
To eat a cold lunch and get ready to go,
When someone above screamed a shocking, "Oh nooooooo!"
And fell in a splash at their feet in the snow.
"I fell off the ledge!" came a sarcastic shout.
"And wouldn't you know, that's what life's all about.
"All danger and pain," he declared with a pout.
"I'll tell you, I'm glad that the sun’s going out!"
They helped the young man, who was dressed in a frock,
To gather his wits and sit down on a rock.
Now, Syd, realizing the man was in shock,
Had bandaged his head with a thick woolen sock.
He then wrapped him up in old Wanbing's blue hood,
To keep the man warm like he'd learned that you should.
The goat searched the ledge for some evergreen wood,
And they built the best blaze that they possibly could.
"Let's go," said the goat. "We must be on our way.
"The sun's getting lower each moment we stay!"
"It's true ," said Wanbing. "Look, the sky's getting gray;
We can leave the man here. I feel sure he's okay."
"Oh, no," yelled the boy. "We must stay here instead,
"To keep the man warm, and make sure that he's fed.
"He's got a deep gash on the top of his head,
"And to leave him right now — would be leaving him dead."
"Oh, go," said that man with a bloody-lipped grin,
As he cautiously touched a black bruise on his chin.
"The world's full of selfishness, suff’ring and sin.
"At least, if I die, peace of mind I will win."
"No," answered Syd. "That just wouldn't be right.
"So, we'll stay and we'll help. Please, don't put up a fight."
So, the three bundled up with the man there all night
‘Til the time of the morn which would come with no light.
The darkening black of the morning did grow,
While the four huddled tight in the freezing wet snow;
The sky was like tar for the sun did not show,
And their only real hope was the fire's weak glow.
For three gloomy days, they all sat in despair
As the deep, sullen black engulfed everything there,
When the injured man rose in the firelight glare
And said, "Now I am well. I seem fit and feel fair!"
"I guess," then said Syd, "we need no longer stay,
But we'll go to the Gates of the Dawn here today."
"Well, if that's where you're bound," he cut in, "then I pray,
That you'll let me, dear sirs, kindly show you the way."
"That's nonsense! You're hurt. You should stay," Syd replied.
"But I'm strong as an ox,"the man suddenly cried.
"And the pathway is steep, and it's loose near the side;
"And I've been there before, and you must have a guide."
The party agreed, and so gave their consent
To the offer of help that the stranger had lent.
The four, hand in hand, then began their accent;
Through gravel and slush, up the mountain they went.
Up through the slippery crags went the four,
On the rocks, in the dark, 'til their bodies were sore,
And just when they thought they were done with their chore,
The man in the frock urged them on to climb more.
They finally gained the great, white mountain peak,
Where they stood with their legs very shaky and weak.
Their jaws dropped in awe, quite unable to speak,
At the glow of the gates in the darkness so bleak.
"You see," the man spoke, "life seemed ever so bad;
With everyone angry and violent or sad.
"No one ever seemed kind, never happy or glad,
And the more that I saw — well, the more I got mad!
"So, I thought to myself: ‘I will make them all pay,
‘Cause I know what they need, so I'll take it away.’
"But Syd showed me love and compassion that day,
And because of his help, I've decided to play!"
"Oh, dear," cried the goat, with his face turning red,
As he glanced at Wanbing, who had lowered his head.
"The jackal and I nearly left you for dead!"
"But you see," the man laughed, "the child's heart spoke instead."
He then thrust his hand in his frock at he fold,
And pulled out a flute made of silver and gold.
And grasping it tight, in the blistering cold,
He walked to the gates smiling merry and bold.
"Behold the great gates, which are closed and forlorn,
That open to let each new morning be born;
Each day and each night their gold hinges are worn
By the sweetest command of my beautiful horn!"
He raised the sheen flute to his lips, and he blew,
A tune they'd heard not, but instinctively knew.
The gates opened wide to a molten-red hue,
And melted the snow to a watery brew.
Syd heard all the waves of the music so sweet,
With their melodies filled with the sweltering heat.
It was filling his mind with a whistling beat,
And he seemed to be floating right off of his feet.
And there, once again, in his bed the child lies,
As he stares out the window and happily sighs.
For there in the light, which most pleases his eyes,
Is the birth of the morn in a golden sunrise.