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The Net Zero Listeners

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‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,

   Knocking at the long closed store;

And his mule in the silence champed the weeds

   At the supermarket’s flaky door:

And a bird flew up out of the vent,

   Above the Traveller’s head:

And he smote upon the store again a second time;

   ‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.

But no one attended the Traveller;

   No head from the checkout till

Leaned out and looked into his grey eyes,

   Where he stood perplexed and still.

But only a host of phantom listeners

  That dwelt in the lone store then

Stood listening in the quiet of the snowfall

   To that voice from the world of men:

Stood thronging the faint motes in the isle,

   That leads to the empty mall,

Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken

   By the lonely Traveller’s call.

And he felt in his heart their strangeness,

   Their stillness answering his cry,

While his mule moved, cropping rank grasses,

   ’Neath the grey and snow filled sky;

For he suddenly smote on the door, even

   Louder, and lifted his head:—

‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,

   That I kept my coupons,’ he said.

Never the least stir made the listeners,

   Though every word he spake

Fell echoing through the shadows of the store

   From the one man left awake:

Ay, they heard his foot upon the car park,

   And the sound of a lone police drone,

And how the silence surged softly backward,

   When the snowy hoofs were gone.

With apologies to Walter de la Mare


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