Just yesterday I heard the expression
‘Hermit Kingdom’ for the first time
listening to a radio program about a
renegade celebrity on his way to
North Korea to stir the pot for a few
photo ops and some bad press.
I imagined first a kingdom
of hermits, each one alone in
a thatched roof house, nestled deep
in a primeval forest, or squalid muddy
hollows near an oyster shell beach
stinking of rockfish and seaweed,
mumbling to their mice,
mourning their candle stubs.
I wondered – who would they
reign over if every subject
was so hermit-like or,
for that matter, why not
call it the Troglodyte Empire?
Then I wondered if I had in fact
heard it all wrong:
maybe what the host really said was
the ‘Kermit Kingdom.’
I thought about it a while,
stuck in traffic at three p.m. –
an American Imperialist
in my Japanese minivan –
and the thought made me smile.
What a wonderful place this
could be – the Kermit Kingdom –
a place where the Royal Throne
is a mossy, rotting log
fallen across a brook,
pristine and burbling.
This King holds court with a
little banjo on his knee
with his countrymen and women,
little tears falling from
the corners of his keyhole eyes,
about the universal
difficulties of being green.
In school every child writes songs
about rainbows without wondering why
there are so many and
as for what’s on the other side, well
what we’ve been told is that
rainbows have nothing
to hide in the Kermit’s Kingdom
if we choose to believe it.
The Queen is a pink pig in a feather boa–
the national icon of beauty and style;
some of the monsters love cookies
some have heads like a honeydew
some are beakers that sing Habanera
but none are armed with
anything but arms for hugging.
Once in a while the Kermit King
loses his cool and flips right on out
but his friends – one of them a bear
one of them a shrimp
one of them a whatever –
set him right again, right there
on live TV for all to see.
When the Kermit King addresses
his beloved people, we can
see the strings that make his mouth
and his arms move and yet,
unlike the puppets of the West,
unlike the puppets of the East,
we don’t mind because
the truth is not hidden
from us, the viewers at home
and we love him all the more.
Like his fellow Emperors,
this Kermit King
has no clothes but was made
instead from a spring green coat,
pilling from years of use,
with two ping pong balls for eyes
by a man who loved children.
In Kermit’s Kingdom
green is all there is to be.
It could make you wonder why,
but why wonder?