The Lady None Will Name


I know a lake, its surface smooth, and near it, stilted trees
Unhealthy to the eye, though only lichen, not disease —
Each yellow node outlined in grey — adorns their northern face;
With gnarled limbs they seem to hold the solemn sky in place.
No ripple, to my memory, has ever marred that lake;
French locals call it, Sorcières le Piquet: Witches’ Stake,
For it is said at dusk the sun will make the water flame
And men, just men they say, can see the lady none will name
Reflected there, arms bound, a soundless cry upon her lips,
Consumed, the shadow of the trees alive like little whips,
Until the failing light entombs her in its burial shroud,
Littered with what meagre gems the quiet sky allowed.

You doubt: I sense it in your stance, yet what I say is true!
I saw her, once. As sunset fell her apparition grew,
Imploring, staked, while flames and whips assailed her till she sank,
And I, as in a dream, entranced, stood still upon the bank.
That starlight: strewn like clumps of dirt atop a tomb; I wept!
I do not know the life she led, or company she kept,
But surely none should suffer such a fate. I’ll not return,
Nor would you benefit: a woman cannot see her burn.
To you the lake would seem a lake; you would not see her cry;
You’d only see its crystal depth, just that, and silent sky.

© William Keller, 2014

Reading by WW Schwim

Image: By Heino Ruiso (Eesti Looduse fotovõistlus 2013) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons


Such a delight – and Wally’s reading of it just added to the pleasure Bill.  Nicely done.  I always think that adding a audio clip or a video clip greatly enhances our poetry because it allows people who are perhaps vision impaired to also hear our words and the visuals on a video can often add atmosphere to poetry.  In my book it is all about getting those people who ‘don’ t do poetry’ involved and you have done that here IMO.  Thank you.

Maureen Clifford