The Naiad

I thought the pool was pretty when I first
.  Discovered it, attracted thither by
.     The music of the waterfall that fed it.
I had stopped to satisfy my thirst,
.  But tarried there to satisfy my eye.
.     A moment only—so I thought—instead it
Captivated me with all its charms;
.  I almost thought it asked for me to stay.
.     The flowers on the bank, the moss upon
The rocks, the foliage so green—no harm
.  In breaking from the road. A brief delay,
.     I thought; tomorrow I’ll continue on.

But when the moonlight shone upon the pond
.  She came to life, emerging from the water,
.     Flowing on the surface of the pool,
The water flowing through her being, responding
.  To her every fluid move. I caught her
.     Eyes a moment only, then in cruel
Haste she vanished underneath the surface
.  Of the waters, leaving me at once
.     Both blesséd to have seen, and curséd to
Have seen no more. There’s nothing on the earth as
.  Beautiful, I thought; as prior wants
.     Went unremembered now I’d her in view.

Another night. I’d stay another night;
.  Perhaps she’d show herself to me again.
.     Perhaps I’d glimpse again that flowing skin,
That waterfall of hair; perhaps I might
.  Have more than just a moment. If and when
.     She surfaced, I would see, and try to win
From her a longer audience, a vision
.  That I might retain for all my days.
.     But would she show herself a second time?
I had to hope. For now it was my mission
.  To behold again that fluid face,
.     To know again a meeting so sublime.

She didn’t come. I waited all the night,
.  And fell asleep at daybreak, weary from
.     The watch. When later I awoke at noon
I grumbled at the waste of time. I might
.  Have made it home by now. She didn’t come.
.     And I am late, and unrewarded. Soon
I’ll leave this place, and not come back again.
.  I must’ve just imagined it—and yet
.     I felt much more alive because of her.
Hence the disappointment in me when
.  I turned to face the road. Could I forget
.     The beauty I’d beheld? I wasn’t sure.

I was just about to leave it all behind
.  When she began to sing. O what delight!
.     (I hadn’t even known she had a voice.)
Without a pause I hurried back to find
.  Her at her pool, and watch, and listen. Might
.     She let me watch her now? It was her choice
To either tolerate or flee from my
.  Approach. Alas! she must have chosen to
.     Retreat, or else I showed too late, and missed
My chance, for even as my searching eye
.  Discerned her shape upon the pool, her music
.     Stopped, and she herself dissolved in mist.

How many days I stayed upon the bank
.  I do not know. I hardly ate, or slept,
.     I only lived to see her form appear
Again. Some nights I lived in vain, and sank
.  Into despair; while other nights I kept
.     My vigil I was fortunate to see her,
And living was a wonder while she
.  Remained. But only did I see, and hear:
.     I never got to touch, for whenever
I approached too near she fled from me.
.  You’d think I’d learn to not adventure near,
.     But no—I’d try again the doomed endeavor.

And sometimes others tried. For by and by
.  Another would discover her while resting
.     From his road. And he would also be
Delayed. A night, a week, a month he’d try
.  To draw within a breath of her, questing
.     For her touch. She never gave it. But she
Would play their hearts, even as she played
.  With mine. But I resented their intrusion,
.     Pleased when they at last recalled their duty,
And left. They had to leave. But I would stay,
.  And dream that she’d be more than just illusion,
.     And I might finally bathe within her beauty.

I don’t remember how it came to pass
.  That I no longer idled by that pool.
.     I’m certain that it was no will of mine
To leave; they must’ve come and dragged me fast
.  Away. Alas, I don’t recall, and who’ll
.     Tell me how I lost a dream so fine?
So now I see her only in my dreams
.  And secret longings—yet I see her well
.     Enough inside my mind the vision taunts
Me ever. Now no mortal woman seems
.  As beautiful as once before. To hell
.     With mortal women. I know what I want.

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