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 leg against the incline,

her other foot submerged like fishing line

whose white leg is silver in the sunlight.

 

But she might’ve come with parasol in hand

riding a cupola of petticoats

that green Sunday on the isle of Grande Jatte

to picnic after the taking of tea

among 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 clean in the Hudson,

the respite from labors ended that day

where buckled farmers with forks toss their hay.

She like a tired farmhand stretching her limbs

by baptismal waters and plashing hymns.

 

Or she is fair Bedwyr among cattails

come on the shining levels of the lake.

eyes frosted with tears from a third mistake,

she waits, she hesitates for some reply.

What is it thou hast heard, or seen, good knight?

Lady’s brilliant arm, clothed in white samite.

 

Nor is she 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.

 

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 calm and self-possessed.

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


R. Charboneau

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