I make my home the best I can,
Distant from the things of man.
A hermit, I supposed you’d say,
Though mine’s a beard that isn’t gray
Completely yet, and I’ve many friends.
In truth, I simply find the wind
More comforting than flapping gums.
These mystic mountains – they’re my chums.
I mind my business in these hills.
I tend my land, and whiskey fills
My glass each night, so have a seat.
Take off your hat, and let us eat.
We’ll sit and laugh and smoke and talk
Beside the fire, and watch the moon walk
Up the sky, star by star.
There’s not such beauty in the bars
You frequent, sir, if you don’t mind.
And now relax, for I’ve a kind
Of tale to tell.
Few are those who can remember
Well, the flood of a September
Years ago, the greatest one
That I myself have ever known.
It took its toll upon the towns
Among the foothills, all around
These mighty peaks, but once again,
The mountains shook it off,
Just rain to them.
Now unless you live among these trees,
You wouldn’t know that flowers freeze
Only when our kind are near.
Man’s done enough to warrant fear
Among them. But when we’re gone,
They laugh and talk and stroll along
And stretch their petals in the sun.
That day, after the flood, among
The newformed ponds and streams about,
I delighted in the shouts
Of one so young, a sapling girl,
That she’d no petals, only curls
Of green about her shining face.
Toward her chirping song I raced,
And stopped along the river’s edge.
I’d never seen a beast so big.
The worms were scattered all about,
For the rain was gone and the sun was out,
But giant was their mighty king,
His massive length resembling
The river that he lay along.
A monster tamed by a song
So sweet that I forgot my fear,
And in the weeds crept even nearer.
Enraptured by her soothing song,
His voice was booming, dark and strong.
“You’re beauty is so fierce your highness,
That it has pierced my wormy blindness.”
I watched them from the dripping trees
For hours then, and I believe
The King of Worms had never seen
Or felt such love outside of dreams.
They stayed together through the fall,
But days are short, and just as all
Things beautiful, they had to end.
I heard his wail as the two friends
Parted ways, into the ground.
The princess first, but on the sound
Of hissing wind through brittle leaves,
I heard her reassure his pleas.
“Fear not, dear friend, for in the spring,
I will return and I will sing
To you each day for months on end.
I will come back to you my friend.”
Ah, but words are brief, and when the snow
Had melted off, I watched him grow
More restless, and the days grew hot.
He waited on the very spot
Where they had met, and quite alone.
The forest air endured his moans
Until the autumn came again,
When his patience reached its bitter end.
Into the ground he disappeared
And in these parts, he didn’t rear
His head again for many years.
But when he did, the story goes,
He found her village on a bold
And sunny morn in early May.
He found her tower on that day
And anger flooded through her town.
He called to her and at the sound
And sight of him, she screamed,
“What is that disgusting thing?”
She turned and fled up to her room
To hide from her old friend, and doom
Crept up her tower walls like ivy.
“Why, I am just like you your Highness.
Do I not feed from the soil?
Drink the rain? And still, I toil,
Breathing life back to the earth.
I ready it for springtime birth
Of all your kind. Do you deny?
And still you cast judgmental eye
Upon the filth and slime I wear.
But would you weep were I so fair
As you, my dear? A flower man?
I was a worm when this began.”
And from the pores within the earth,
His slimy subjects slithered forth
A billion strong, a writhing tide
Erupting from the flowery hillside
As the princess screamed in vain
For mercy, still, his fury rained
Down from his sightless face like lightning.
His body gripped her tower, tightening,
And he’d no eyes in which to seek
Such things as mercy, things the weak
Depend upon, and all the while,
His children rose, a sea, for miles.
The houses crumbled to the ground
While living flowers ran around
And screamed and stopped and fell away.
The worms took everyone that day.
Except the Princess in her tower.
She pleaded, wept and screamed and cowered.
“Stop!” She cried. “For I remember.
But I was different six Septembers
In the past, my dear old friend.”
And his face rose up before her window.
“So. You seek salvation now.
You beg and plead before me, how
Ironic. You cannot know,
A worm’s heart isn’t like your own,
But torn in half, the pieces live.
They twist and writhe, and each half gives
Birth to hatred twice as strong
As that before, as what is gone.
This rage is born of searing pain,
For even gods get wet in rain.
You’ve trespassed though my seven hearts.
I’ll tear your little world apart
And swiftly princess, you shall learn
The bitter wrath of the King of Worms.”
Within his throat, there rose a rumble.
Beneath his strength, the tower crumbled,
And on the hill, the wormy mass
Parted, to allow the lass
To hit the ground, and there she lay.
The worms receded, and not the rays
Of sunlight shining on her face
Could stir her from her dark disgrace.
And from the slimy soil she
Grew thick and old, a willow tree.
And to this day, the Princess weeps
Upon the hilltop, roots sunk deep
Into the earth to seek the past,
Or something there. Regret, perhaps?
Many nights I’ve sipped on whiskey
At her roots and watched the frisky
Wisps of clouds across the moon.
I’ve listened to the breezy tune
Her branches play, and I’ve understood.
She dreams of children, in the woods,
Unburdened by such fleeting, petty
Differences, like ugly. Pretty.
And sometimes as my whiskey creeps
Down its bottle, my old heart leaps
As on the wind she sings her song,
In rustling words, and I belong
Beneath her spell, a sheltered bird
Who cannot own her, but I have heard
At night, there rises from the ground
A tortured wail, an awful sound.
The howling of an ancient beast,
Whose seven hearts have never ceased
To beat for her and all she’s lost.
A wreath of petals; beauty costs
So much sometimes, and then is gone,
A corpse for worms to feed upon.
Forever will he squirm forgotten
Through slimy mazes at the bottom
Of the soil, a fallen king.
A wretched, haunted, twisted thing
Who yearns for what he once destroyed,
For men and worms are merely boys.
He lives his life beneath regret.
The King of Worms cannot forget
His past, his wounds, a creature doomed
To wriggle on through darkened tombs,
To scrape her roots and sink away,
Dreaming of a distant day.