Were innocent lovers, clear as water.
Of course, water doesn’t always run clear,
And water that looks clear can be toxic,
Or unfit to drink, or just foul tasting.
But when water is clear, it’s the image
Of purity as sweet simplicity.
When I say these two were clear as water,
I just mean their affection was simple,
Love empty of anything except love,
Which is as hard to find as pure water
In the deep woods, where water runs denser
As a rule, emerging from mountain springs
Full of unseen minerals and wonders.
And so the witch simply loved the hermit,
And equally the hermit loved the witch.
Through the empty lens of love’s perception,
Which, when pure, distorts no more than water,
The witch was as lovely as she was young,
The hermit handsome as he was lonesome.
The hermit lingered, waiting in his glade,
For each visit from his witch, who wandered
Constantly, searching fresh ingredients
For the potions that earned her the name, witch.
She counted on him to be there for her,
And he counted on her to come for him.
They met every day, and each day was bliss.
But the deep woods had a problem with this.
An old ghost inhabited the deep woods,
Haunting the patterns it swirled into words.
It moved in a mist, formless, borderless,
In which an unseen presence could be heard
Whispering of treasures lost in the earth.
The old ghost took exception to the clear,
Watery love of the hermit and witch.
The old ghost preferred affections obscured.
One afternoon, when the witch flitted past
A dim marsh where the old ghost was lurking,
Humming on her way to the hermit’s glade,
Its mist gathered and followed behind her.
When she reached the sunny patch of meadow,
Her handsome, basking hermit asked, “What’s that?”
He pointed at the haze that had gathered
Behind the witch, a vaporous shadow,
A silvery, watery miasma
That was anything but clear. The witch turned
And felt each hair of her flesh stand on end.
The fog caught at her eyes and blurred the light,
And a dreadful, circular whispering
Wrapped her clearest thoughts in grey, muffled words
First uttered by hermits and witches dead
For hundreds, thousands of years. They whispered,
Love is never pleasant long, and longing
Creeps into every faithful lover’s ears.
This crystal stream you drink will turn to tears.
Now turn your head. Your love’s already fled.
The witch wrenched around, and in the distance
Saw her hermit, going grey, receding.
You see? The ghost’s words whispered, He’s leaving.
But the witch didn’t see. That was the trick
Of the wisps greying and obscuring him.
While she’d listened, the haze had captured him,
And now the words were in his ears as well,
Explaining their ancient wisdom. You see?
Your witch has brought you misery. She wants
You to be more than you can ever be,
And now she cries, see? Horror in her eyes.
She is receding. And so she was. Love,
Grown vast, damp, and menacing between them,
Hid worlds within it, and the woods grew dim.