The man from the mountains
ferreted out the fish girl; feet sore
with calluses, he descended the hills
like a mountain lion and sniffed her skin
scaled in water. . . .
“Satyavati and Vyasa,” Uma Gowrishankar
Ferreting out the fish girl: I have spent my life
finding wounded girls on mountainsides
and bringing them to the river.
I turn quickly; one callused foot
in the clear water running over the staves,
one foot in the mud of the bank – and then I am running,
running to where the sweet fish smell and the pitch,
the resin of the young alders, can no longer find me.
Oh yes! I can call the mist; and I can change the smell
of fish into something so rare and lovely
all kings desire it; and I can restore
virginity – always the last gift they ask for,
and the most important: make it, they implore me,
as if you had never been.
Well. It is the lesson every rishi should learn,
if being is illusion and every man
calls his own fate down upon him: the price
of love is the river water
filling your footprints, and the quick shove
of a boat into the stream.