As I Was Walking

As I Was Walking
by Theodora Goss

I met, as I was walking,
nature, my mother’s mother,
beside the cold gray waters
of an undulating sea,

like granite filled with motion,
like silk the hue of gravel,
whose veins of quartz or borders
of lace broke endlessly.

She stared at the horizon
where nothing moved or altered,
while over us a cold wind
rearranged the clouds

that looked like chunks of boulder
hewn in some gray quarry.
A premature white moon slipped
through their scattered crowds.

“Lady,” I said, staring
at the far horizon,
wondering why she stood there,
“I have loved you long.

“My mother told me stories
of your wild procession,
and when a child she sang me
sleeping with your song.”

She neither moved nor answered
for an extended moment.
At last she turned and faced me.
I saw her blank gray eyes,

blind, with a film across them,
like foam upon the shingle.
They could not fix me, scanning
instead the darkened skies.

“Welcome, my daughter’s daughter,”
she said with a voice like pebbles
rattling down the slopes
of a long-abandoned mine.

“Recall your mother’s stories
of when I danced through forests
with ivy-covered maenads,
drinking golden wine,

“Recall the clashing cymbals,
and still the wild procession
will live within that memory.
But I can stir no more,

“and the only song remaining
is the sound of billows
desolately breaking
on this barren shore.”

The moon slipped through the heavens
as we stood together,
watching the horizon
like an empty rune.

Then I took her hands
and danced upon the shingle,
and she sang, like pebbles cracking,
the old, old tune.

Illustration by William Russell Flint

(The illustration is by William Russell Flint. This poem was published in my collection Songs for Ophelia.)

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