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