Image by Barbara Hitchcock
An islander like themselves,
they had seen her before,
basking on the harbor rocks,
swimming in this cove,
home waters to them all.
Now they see a stranger,
a half-grown, slender girl,
naked like themselves.
She sits looking down at them
as they play,
cousins. friends since earliest times.
Beside her lies the heap
of their discarded shirts and shorts.
Her own, just shed, lies wrinkled
at her feet.
She watches, studying
their movements, moving
her own new arms and legs
in imitation, then
makes her way, uncertainly
down the rocky ledges
to join them in their play.
“A summer visitor,” they guess.
Afterward, hurrying into
racing toward cottages
and breakfast, only one,
the last and youngest,
sees the unclaimed silver pelt,
looks back for her,
will always in this place,
in years to come, look for her.
Like Ondine, like Yeats’ silver trout
elusive girl, she had escaped
the bonds of story, found the rift,
if only briefly, between myth and mortal.
Where to look for her? Not here,
not on this island.
She belongs again to the poets,
the story-tellers, the ancient liars
who will happily lead you astray.
Look for her, if you dare,
but be wary of the fog
that comes in suddenly,
hiding the paths, obscuring the ledges.
No, she is not that cairn or boulder,
The sound you hear of barking laughter
comes from the ones who know.
Their skins, like anoraks,
proof against all weathers,
all but summer’s Dulce Domum call
to plunge weightless in its waters,
play a little while with mortals,
then vanish into legend
still courting all pursuit.
– Marjorie Mir