Lady of the Lake

by Elise Anna Matthesen

Body of water
Body of work
"A body of collected knowledge about the therapeutic properties of any substance used for healing"
Call it a healing ritual 
Or a mercy fuck, whichever you like.
Corporal act of mercy — that sounds nice
It was on an afternoon woven of equal parts
Sunlight, aimlessness and proscribed botanicals
A young hero in need
As they often are, 
Of a body of collected knowledge
A body of work
Where the sun came in I was gilded
Where the shadows fell he was oak leaf and ivory
A cascade of glossy black down his back
Where the fire inside touched us both
We were molten copper
A burning ship
St. Elmo's fire wreathing the mast
Climbing along the rigging
Reflections like flaming coins scattered
On frantic waves
No. Not ocean.
I was a lake, 
I have always been a lake 
Until some idiot threw a sword in me.
There's always some idiot with a sword.
How's a natural phenomenon to have any peace
With people always mucking about making an omen of one
Requiring auguries, questing after this vision, that revelation
Or simply demanding that one reveal or conceal the artifact of the week?
My sister's a cenote.
What's thrown down her, vanishes.
Cold jade waters.
Colder silence within.
I am more temperate, if no warmer.
I prefer the give and take
Though it means my contemplations will be disturbed from time to time 
By this one making a deposit
And the other one drawing something forth
A regular lending library, some centuries.
The sword was hot, newforged
Or so I recall.
There was, as always, enough and more
To quench the burning brand, temper the steel
I think, from time to time, this annoys some of them
The sheer inexhaustibility
Of a body of water, a body of work, a body of collected knowledge
As if it were somehow a reflection on them.
No matter. The sword went in.
As I recall, I gave it away again later.
My old lover the witch in her tower
Used to tease me
Call me a plaguey thing for giving her gifts away again
Roses cast up on shore,
Bits of ribbon for the ravens to carry off
Hey, offerings come and offerings go.
Collect knowledge. Disburse.
The sword stayed for a while.
The hero died.
They do, you know. It's generally part of the tale
Though people may not always want to hear it.
Swords outlast them as a rule.
Lakes outlast swords.
There were currents cold within me
Green weeds wreathed my heart
As I took in the sword, drew it down
The word "fathom" was not made to describe
What was in my young hero's eyes
They widened as he felt the water close over him
I was still too much lake 
To tell him that he was a hero
That heroes die.
My silence disturbed him
More than he had disturbed mine
But the waves we made together 
Rocked him to peacefulness
Or exhaustion.
A body of work, whatever else it is, is just that. Work.
We came back to ourselves 
In that room of dust and oakleaves.
The shadows were longer. We had come very far.
What water was left spilled down my cheeks.
Struck dumb as any oracle, I held him,
And with what little kindness I had left
Carefully told him nothing but stories of swords.

Elise Anna Matthesen — beads, metal, songs, stories, poetry, and whatnot. Walks with a cane; walks toward delight. Hard of hearing; reads lips. Into sentence fragments. Seeks meaningful collaboration with verbs. Preferably over sushi. Elise says her favourite fruit "would be ground cherries, but they're probably actually a vegetable."

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