In a city where I wander,
Hoping not to see a face
That might recognize my features
In that crowded, empty place,
Where I walk past laughing shadows
Who I barely even see
Whose existence isn't nothing
Yet they mean nothing to me,
For, when wrapped in endless questions
And the riddles do not end
And the questions have no answers---
I don't need another friend.
So I walk past stores and phantoms
And they fade before my eyes
As my reveries take over
And the sunlight starts to die.
Thus I walked in contemplation
Til a voice called out to me,
He said: "Son, you're looking lonely,
"I've got something you should see."
Then surprised, I looked right at him---
An old man, to say the least---
And his store, I'd never noticed,
Called "The Phantom and the Beast."
"Now I know," the man said grinning,
"That this all seems kinda strange,
"But I've got some things to tell you,
"Come with me and I'll explain."
Now, I'm not so fond of strangers,
And I'm not some old guy's "son,"
But I felt a strong connection
Like when something must be done.
Still I hesitated, knowing
That such things nodody does,
So I asked why he had called me:
He just shrugged and said "Because."
So I followed in my instinct
And the man who called me in
And I found a place of wonders
Filled with faeries, dragons, djinn,
All the toys that kids could ask for,
And some other things as well:
Fog machines and antique costumes,
Playing cards and magic bells.
"This is it," the old man told me,
"I sell trinkets, odds and ends;
"I sell anything that suits me,
"I don't care for modern trends...
"But young man, what I must show you
"Lies a little further back,
"Past the knights in shining armor
"And the books I need to stack."
So he brought me even deeper,
And I found things weirder yet,
Some things dark, and some of beauty,
That I doubt I will forget.
"Do you sell these things?" I asked him,
"Only rarely," said the man,
"Most don't even purchase trinkets,
"Even more don't understand
"How these things, though maybe pricey,
"Are well worth their weight in gold,
"But require slight committment
"And for that reason rarely sold."
"Here we are!" He said abruptly,
"Now you can't be so aloof,
"For this thing can pierce right through you---
"This is called the Glass of Truth,
"I know it seems, for ever purpose,
"Like a mirror topped with dust,
"Look inside, and look down deeper,
"Just ignore the soot and rust."
So I gazed upon the mirror,
Just expecting normal glass,
But the things I saw within it...
I could not suppress a gasp;
For I saw my life outside me,
How I lived and who I was,
From a third person perspective
Like no other human does.
First I saw myself, quite younger,
When my face was smooth and soft,
When there were no complications
In emotion or in thought.
Then I saw, a little older,
Some complextiy, and eyes
Filled with dreams and strange emotions
When first love is realized,
Then it changed to fear and scarring
That I almost couldn't see,
For the face, once kind and happy,
Began to look away from me.
From that time, I couldn't tell you,
For such tales could fill up tomes,
All the guilt and bleeding anguish
That had cut me to the bone.
I had wishes come to nothing,
After toil and abuse,
I had sins which I accepted
And had virtues I refused;
And I heard the silent mocking
Of a world I thought I knew,
How I failed those closest to me
Though there was nothing I could do.
And I felt the pain of others
Which I caused, that hurt the most,
And the fear which I had caused them
Like a devil or a ghost.
Then I saw the world surround me,
Pressing down from every side,
And how everyone ignored me
No matter how loud I had cried;
My own family didn't see me
As I struggled every day
All they said was "hurry faster,"
And then up and walked away;
And my friends, as I embraced them,
Slid their knives between my ribs
And spoke out with acrid malice,
Those I'd known since we were kids.
And those loves to whom I offered
Everything: my heart and soul,
Broke the one and beat the other,
And those beatings took a toll.
But of all those dark tormenters
There was one by far the worst
Who was boundless in his cruelty
Who heaped curse on every curse.
Every word he echoed louder
With a voice I could not stand,
How he tripped me every moment,
And helped me misunderstand.
For each wound he had a lemon
And some salt to help the pain,
How he twisted every dagger,
And how cold he made the rain!
So who was my worst abuser?
This dark sadist, who was he?
Then I saw the man reflected:
I was looking right at me.
Still the vision in the mirror
Moved ahead into the now
And I saw the things which made me
And I knew the "when" and how."
Now I see a face that's beaten,
Both complex and filled with scars
Just a shadow of the good days,
How did it come this far?
And I backed away in horror,
With the fears upon my face,
Was I now nothing but broken?
Was I a hopeless case?
Then the old man, with a smile,
Took my hand an led me down,
Asked me all about my vision
And the things which I had found.
He said "Son, please listen closely,
"For although the mirror's true,
"There are still some things it can't know,
"Like what you're gonna do.
"When you've suffered many hardships
"It can leave you broken, bruised,
"And when others leave you dying
"It may feel like you've been used,
"So a fierceness grows inside you,
"Born from sorrow that you've bled
"And the emptiness inside you
"Makes you wish that you were dead,
"So although you wish to fight them,
"There is no one you can tell,
"So you live a hopeless shadow
"Who is stuck inside a hell.
"You become a beast and phantom
"From your sorrow and your hate
"And you drift through life not knowing
"All the things that make it great.
"This I know: that deep within you
"There lies a greater good
"Than the evils which you've suffered
"And the crimes that you've withstood.
"So my friend, don't be a phantom
"Or a beast; just be a man,
"And appreciate the beauty
"Of this world that's in God's hand."
And although I haven't seen him
Since that night I changed for good,
Now I know the right direction
And I go the way I should.
Now my step is full of purpose
And the knowledge of the true,
So for all those beasts and phantoms
I will do all I can do.