Nimue of the Pallid Countenance – Steve O’Brien

 
Dark is the loom tide of the lake.
I have flickered through blind fathoms  
To the clear still shallows
Of the water-fasten that holds
My country apart from yours.
 
I bring a wish blade made itself all of water
To the upper world
Hammered from deep cold stone water
In the springs of midnight water
And the higher I reach the more it becomes.
 
I have nursed it for a moon time;  
A silver fin etched on both sides
In a hoar frost tongue of blue verglas -
‘Take Me Up’ it says and ‘Cast Me Away.’
 
Skim-ice along its edges clave
The pitch of the currents  as I rose.
Now it shears the surface of the pool
That was unbroken by rain.
 
This man approaching                    
Has walked a holloway of alder and willow.
His face eddying  like a lily,
Wary eyed, as if he is questioning his journey,
This proffered treasure.
 
Well might he hesitate,
As I hang among the trout glades
With the washed steel singing above me,
Its point biting my palm.
 
For all his life will be a racing torrent
Like a mountain beck in the spring thaw.
 
When first he draws this sword
It will shriek like an eagle
And dazzle his enemies.
It will also bind him and he will forever 
Be a man wading the marches
Between waking and dreaming.
This is the gift.
 
Yet now
It is enough
To see how the hairs on his arm move
As he reaches to take the hilt.
I open my fingers, they glide through his   
And then I sink.


STEVEN O'BRIEN
Illustration - Arthur Pyle (1903)

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