True Thomas at Secret Cove

by Neile Graham

The water: crystal, though salted.
The bank: rocks, barnacles, driftlogs.
True Thomas sits, dreaming to the refrain
of small waves tickling the shore,
when she rides out from under
the cedars' swirling tides.

Her steed: a stinking sea lion.
The bells: his raucous bark.
But she, surely the queen of heaven.
He's never seen her like, her brightness,
all velvet moss, seaweed silk,
fabric and flesh, intoxicating, fey.

Her flowing hair: tangled kelp brown
Her eyes: aqua all the way down.
Of course he mounts the steed
behind her, and now it's waves
they ride, past beaches, points,
waves and waves of trees.

Two choices: the narrowed creek, the broad sea.
A third: the winding ways of inlets,
and islands, that's the road to where
she reigns as queen. Elfland
more fair than mortals imagine
a land more green than green.

Elf dust: falls as rain.
Elf light: clouded sun sifts through trees.
Denizens shaped by alder leaf,
cedar twigs, needles of hemlock
and fir, glossy salal, all bees
and berry flowering.

His wages: blackberries.
Its gift: a never-lying tongue.
His promise is silence against
all this profusion. Not a word
against the pelting, gifting
rain, the golden broken sky.

His sentence: seven years.
Her glory: unpraised.
When he re-emerges
back onto the usual land
how his voice creaks, how long
he must search for the sounds
that shape the words to name himself.

The world: to him seems dry, its marrow empty.
Wonder: gone.
But for those he meets his every word
spent one by one like coins
rings true as gold, falling like angels
from his purple-stained tongue.

Neile Graham is Canadian by birth and inclination, having grown up in B.C. and currently living in Seattle. That, in conjunction with her lifelong fascination with myth and folklore has led to her working on a collection of poems about the mythic lore of Scotland and the Pacific Northwest, from which this poem comes. She has three previous collections of poetry, Seven Robins, Spells for Clear Vision, and Blood Memory, as well as a CD of her reading her work, She Says: Poems Selected and New. Her poems and stories have been published in the U.S., the U.K., and Canada. Her favourite fruits are the raspberries from her garden, which she annually combines with apricots and spices to make jam.

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