The Fisherman and the Dryad

He drank from a bottle and waded in the river.
He waded near the bank and watched the light
Drain through the trees and set on the water
That told his fortune with floating sticks and leaves.
He saw his place arranged there before him,
A dinner service set on a table of glass
That he, the thrown rock of himself, might break,
His own reflection, the gray shadow of a fish,
Its murky back twisting through stumps and weeds.


Then he heard her step through the forest, the sound
Of the steps preceding her through the leaves
Like the calling card of a doe approaching the water,
Trying her footing across newly covered ground.
Backpacker, he thought, and put away his bottle,
Not wanting it a stranger’s first sight of him,
Cheered it might be someone who liked a line of chatter,
He, not having spoken to anything but a worm
All day in the forest instead of at work.

He had been changing a flat, a roofing nail
Pried from the tread with the edge of a dime,
Rolling the spare when he first heard the river
On the other side of the road when his breathing slowed.
Having heard it, he wanted to see it at once,
To wade in his boots and drag a cast line
In the flat current moving toward him,
When she stepped into the clearing above the river,
Yellow leaves on her arms and birds in her hair.