A few miles above here the stifling water
Bursts from its intransigent confines,
Scouring milk quartz and couch grass, then falls shorter
Tiring on this plain, and soon resigns
Itself to a crystal cantering at three and a quarter
Knots. Sheep that stumble in can wade out again;
There are three fords in a mile, a frightened
Bird is confident enough to nest (a hen
Bird widowed by crack slingers) on lightened
Twigs over the paltry rapids—local men
Say they can spit higher than the rising spray.
Very likely. But it is terrible
Here. I quote from my diary. Late in the day
I came to this spot full of the smell
Of wild honeysuckle. I knelt in white clay
To scoop water from the vague stream. Then I saw
On the other bank a naked girl,
Beautiful as pearl, wade from the shelving shore
Till waves tapped her vagina. She curled
Her hair up high and splashed her body. Before
My eyes she cleansed herself with water and a leaf,
Two naked girls stood behind her. Then,
Roaring upstream, a goatherd, miserly thief
Of his own flock for the grim woven
Cloth he wore, splashed to her side, his bulging beef
Fuming with lust. He spreadeagled her and laid
Her on the milky clay. I watched from
Across the mild water, my ears and eyes sprayed
By yells and spalshes. I felt the thong
Of his lust whipping her, his short sword invade,
His tongue in my own lips like a strap of fire.
Fill her with blood I heard myself say.
He left her and cooled his face in the river;
Her maids propped her on the hard grass. Day
Turned over to night, the tight moon climbed higher
Than the fence of hills—I left the place purged in
Conscience by this rape as though my own
Semen had uncurdled. I knew myself virgin
And my shame fell on me like a stone.
I went to the village headman, my urgent
Need banking a headache. I promised him
Two Mausers he coveted—a smile
And a touch of his death's hand and a cold whim.
Was fact—they dragged that goatman a mile
On his head and set the village dogs on him.
I was conducted to the body, the throat
A jungle of cables, the face gone
Utterly. I am determined to devote
My life's work to their legends, the dawn
Of life is still alive here. I intend to quote
His death in my ‘Myths and their Parallels’.
I visited the old men in their
Council, gave them aspirin to combat spells
From goat bleats, paid ten pounds to repair
Their totem, drank from their malarial well.
A man must never flinch beneath the hard rod
Of his purpose. I went without sleep
All night priming their bard, a gummy Hesiod
With Bright's disease. The fixed stars run deep
As dreams. I too am made in the image of God.