This afternoon on the bank of the lake,

in patches of bristling, welcome-mat grass,

her long hair netted in grassy fibers,

she angles one bare knee on the incline,

her other foot submerged like fishing line

whose white leg silver sometimes catches in the sun.

 

But she might’ve come with parasol in hand

riding a cupola of petticoats

that placid day on the Isle of Grande Jatte

to picnic after the taking of tea

astride the leisure of the waters blown back,

made passive by waves fanning passively.

 

Or what if she’d just bathed in all her clothes?

Scrubbed her soapy beard with wet fingertips,

the slack respite from labors ended that day

where buckled farmers with forks toss their hay,

she like a tired farmhand stretching her limbs

beside baptismal waters and the plashing hymns.

 

Neither is she so different from those who drowned here

or in other lakes, you must know their names,

who loaded their pockets heavy with stones

or let their sodden dresses pull them down,

they, too, must once have lain like her alone

and known as she knows such intimate sound.

 

Or she is handsome Bedwyr among bulrushes

come on the shining levels of the lake.

eyes frosted with tears from a third mistake,

she waits, she hesitates for some reply.

What hast thou heard, or seen, good knight?

Lady’s brilliant arm, clothed in white samite.

 

But why should I trace through my memory

stories as though an essence might appear

not by revealing but by disguising?

Too much of it is unnecessary

to learn how she lies so easy and undisturbed.

I know nothing of her, I mean nothing to her.


— R. Charboneau

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