Jack Hardway



There was a wise man in Algiers

Who only spoke once, each two years.

The words thus spake were so profound

That pilgrims came from all world 'round

To hear what truth he would relate.

Then two years more they had to wait.


And so, at the appointed hour,

The throng did come from near and far.

"The world," he said, to all before,

"Is like a well," then said--no more.

As he departed to his tent,

They labored over what he meant.


What heady truth of life and death

Did concentrate in that one breath?

What glory in that metaphor

Could change one's life for evermore?

What ever-reaching thing of awe

To make one shout of life, "Aha!"


And thus they all went on their ways

To distant shores, to count the days

Until they might return again

And hear the explanation then.

In anguish did they bear the time

Till wisdom's secret they would find.


Then time again came two years hence.

They all came back at great expense.

They sold their homes, for one could call

Them naught, against the key to all.

For what meant money or careers?

The key to bliss was in Algiers.


They gathered there, the place renowned.

The old man came, and looked around.

He paced among them, old and young.

He brooded, sighed, and clicked his tongue,

And then, almost as afterthought,

He shrugged, and said, "Well, maybe not."