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The King and Seer

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The King asks, “Tell me, what is the highest meaning of the holiest truths?”
The Seer answers, “Emptiness, without holiness.”

The King is a restless seeker.
The Seer is a ruler and thief.

I am seriously watching how trees are always missing some leaves.
They sweep the air looking for them. Nothing distracts them. Nothing.
Where leaves are missing between the branches, beautiful sun porches,
which disappear when the tree reaches them.

“Who are you?” the King asks.
“It is not like that,” the Seer says.

The Seer leaves the King alone in his throne room
and starts walking to China, kicking up gravel,
hurrying to find the next king.

On the road between country houses,
he stops to listen to trees digging the air for crickets.
He wonders whether the King is mad now like the trees,
or dancing and recounting the story without an end.

Source: Poetry (July/August 2013)

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This poem originally appeared in the July/August 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

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The King and Seer

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  • Emily Warn was born in San Francisco and grew up in California and Detroit. She earned degrees from Kalamazoo College and the University of Washington. Her full-length collections of poetry include The Leaf Path (1982), The Novice Insomniac (1996), and Shadow Architect (2008). She has published two chapbooks: The Book of Esther (1986) and Highway Suite (1987) and is the founding editor of poetryfoundation.org, Warn’s poems and criticism have been published widely in journals and magazines, including Bookforum, Blackbird, Jacket2, Parabola, the Seattle Times, and Poetry. She is a former Wallace Stegner fellow and has held writer-in-residence positions at institutions such as the Bush School in Seattle, Sun Valley Center for the Arts, Centrum Foundation, and Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, New Mexico.
     
    A former group programming manager for Microsoft, Warn has also been a web consultant for Amazon, the Methow Conservancy, and Farming and the Environment. She has taught...

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