Where the path to the lake twists out of sight,
A puff of dust, the kind bare feet make running,
Is what I saw in the dying light,
Night swooping down everywhere else.
A low branch heavy with leaves
Swaying momentarily where the shade
Lay thickest, some late bather
Disrobing right there for a quick dip—
(Or my solitude playing a trick on me?)
Pinned hair coming undone, soon to float
As she turns on her back, letting
The dozy current take her as it wishes
Beyond the last drooping branch
To where the sky opens
Black as the water under her white arms,
In the deepening night, deepening hush,
The treetops like charred paper edges,
Even the insects oddly reclusive
While I strained to hear a splash,
Or glimpse her running back to her clothes . . .
And when I did not; I just sat there.
The rare rush of wind in the leaves
Still fooling me now and then,
Until the chill made me go in.
Charles Simic, poet, essayist, and translator, has received numerous literary awards for his poetry and translations, including the Mac Arthur Fellowship and Pulitzer Prize. He teaches American literature and creative writing at the University of New Hampshire and has published fourteen collections of his poetry, five books of essays and memoirs, and numerous books of translations. Jackstraws, his latest book of poems, was published by Harcourt Brace in 1999, as were his Selected Early Poems. (2001)