The Fisherwoman: A Dark Comedy

No doubt disturbs the staunch belief:

undines in tea-dark water dwell,

or lakes of flat sun-sluggish jade

calm as tables neatly laid

and waiting for the feast.

 

Myth states marriage as their goal,

the bearing of a mortal child.

We’re told they seek domestic bliss,

exchange of one connubial kiss

in acquisition of a soul.

 

The truth is darker in its tone

as befits creatures from the depths

of cold rock-bound loving cups.

As the kneeling willow sups,

so do undines gnaw on bones.

 

The willow fishes for her bread,

pulls him close and drowns him dead,

while undines hope only to wed.

O, la! The willow fishes.

 

Brave Edward rose beside a tarn

black and deep as dreamless night

where darted ‘neath the shadowed water

a slim and lovely faerie daughter

deceitful in her charms.

 

She rose like music toward the sun,

green and pale as springtime buds.

Spotted as a smooth-skinned fish,

sweeter than a granted wish,

her breasts of blushing celadon.

 

Gracefully, she took the shore

and set about her comb and glass.

Her silver hair like harp strings sighed;

she drew the comb its length with pride.

(Such treasure no king ever tried

To win by trade or war.)

 

The willow stocks her larder well.

Whose bones beneath her knobbed knees dwell?

None have ever lived to tell.

O, la! The willow fishes.

 

Edward tumbled from his steed,

unhorsed by sheer astonishment.

His heart a weight, and now a drum,

he staggered forward at a run

before the girl could flee.

 

She, in pretty fright, upheld

hands like snowy egret plumes.

“Oh, sir, be soft and do no harm”.

She trembled in his sun-browned arms

and worked her wicked spell.

 

She said, “One kiss is all I dare.

I’ve never touched a mortal man.”

Edward’s heart swelled with pride;

he couldn’t guess the monster lied

or planned to drag him to her lair.

 

The willow fishes with her net

of tendrils by the current swept

‘round wrist or throat – she’ll drown him yet!

O, la! The willow fishes.

 

She kissed the inky knots and whorls

tattooed upon his shoulder,

and smiled against the cryptic art.

“Good God, but your teeth are sharp!”,

cried Edward, pricked as by a dart

by what he’d thought were pearls.

 

Limp beauty turned to lethal foe

strong as temptation, slippery-lithe.

She showed him glistening fangs and claws,

and with fury raked him raw,

slashing flesh to bone.

 

He saw her hungry eyes and knew

with dread her black intent. He fought.

The willow’s ward, she knew her craft –

she scored him bloody fore and aft –

and made off with his tattoo.

 

The willow schools the undine fair,

who hunts with beauty for a snare.

Mortal men, near lakes beware!

O, la! The willow fishes.

 

The undine carried off her scrap

of Edward’s decorated flesh,

and shared the dainty crudité

with the willow, lean and fey,

gnawed bones in her lap.

 

Swooning Edward, pale and weak,

gained his saddle with a groan.

Riding to the nearest town,

he toppled to the stony ground.

The townsfolk all gathered ’round

to hear if he would speak.

 

“For love of beauty, I am undone”,

croaked Edward, grimacing with pain.

“I’ll live, and I’ll be wise and true,

but ’twill be without that cursed tattoo

I got in drunken fun.”

 

The willow grinds men’s bones to silt,

and relishes the blood that’s spilt

beneath her braids of sunlit gilt.

O, la! The willow fishes.

 

 

e.yon/2002 (from Fruit & Bones)

 

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2 thoughts on “The Fisherwoman: A Dark Comedy

    1. Those folk songs were the inspiration of this piece (actually, some of the songs from Tolkien). I wanted to try out that psuedo-refrain, and it was a lot of fun. 🙂

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