Now that she is old,
the young men don’t approach her
so the nights are free,
the streets at dusk that were so dangerous
have become as safe as the meadow.
By midnight, the town’s quiet.
Moonlight reflects off the stone walls;
on the pavement, you can hear the nervous sounds
of the men rushing home to their wives and mothers; this late,
the doors are locked, the windows darkened.
When they pass, they don’t notice her.
She’s like a dry blade of grass in a field of grasses.
So her eyes that used never to leave the ground
are free now to go where they like.
When she’s tired of the streets, in good weather she walks
in the fields where the town ends.
Sometimes, in summer, she goes as far as the river.
The young people used to gather not far from here
but now the river’s grown shallow from lack of rain, so
the bank’s deserted—
There were picnics then.
The boys and girls eventually paired off;
after awhile, they made their way into the woods
where it’s always twilight—
The woods would be empty now—
the naked bodies have found other places to hide.
In the river, there’s just enough water for the night sky
to make patterns against the gray stones. The moon’s bright,
one stone among many others. And the wind rises;
it blows the small trees that grow at the river’s edge.
When you look at a body you see a history.
Once that body isn’t seen anymore,
the story it tried to tell gets lost—
On nights like this, she’ll walk as far as the bridge
before she turns back.
Everything still smells of summer.
And her body begins to seem again the body she had as a young
glistening under the light summer clothing.
From The Yale Review, April 2008, issue 96.2.