When Reader Meets Text

Two lonely walkers meet in the usual deep wood,
A glade perhaps or a meeting of ways,
And as they sense the aura or click of the other,
Before even suspicion kicks in, there is terror
That this is the end of the world, and they’re right.
But nevertheless their paths have been forged
By previous travellers in this same dense jungle
Which disappears on every side into the night,
And so they arrive, in a state of high tension,
Before a new and unfamiliar pair of eyes.

What strikes them first is that someone is missing –
Or at least someone is there they cannot see –
So again, before they even begin, they understand
As all living things do, that though they are two
They should be three. What then ensues in this wood
Could be called the distrustful creation of a third.
They negotiate a structure between and above them
To compensate for this one great missing thing
In the silence, and they do so by building
Word upon word upon word upon word
Upon word upon word upon word upon word.

In order to allay their fear of each other they want
To create a forest of their own, where every leaf
And root is of their design and in thrall to them.
But the basic matter of their being confuses
And causes them (a) to mistake this structure
For theirs alone and their opposite pilgrim
For a statue or an ants’ nest, or (b) to fail
In their fury to notice that all they are doing
Is gathering small stones and withering flowers,
Constructing a frame of brittle twigs
With such care and laughable solemnity.
They are making a little castle like children
In the soft dirt at the feet of trees.

None of which matters as the two lonely walkers
Move on, changed forever, leaving behind nothing
But what the deep wood accepts beneath its canopy.

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