Where the path to the lake twists out of sight,
A puff of dust, the kind bare feet make running,
Is what I saw in the dying light,
Night swooping down everywhere else.
A low branch heavy with leaves
Swaying momentarily where the shade
Lay thickest, some late bather
Disrobing right there for a quick dip—
(Or my solitude playing a trick on me?)
Pinned hair coming undone, soon to float
As she turns on her back, letting
The dozy current take her as it wishes
Beyond the last drooping branch
To where the sky opens
Black as the water under her white arms,
In the deepening night, deepening hush,
The treetops like charred paper edges,
Even the insects oddly reclusive
While I strained to hear a splash,
Or glimpse her running back to her clothes . . .
And when I did not; I just sat there.
The rare rush of wind in the leaves
Still fooling me now and then,
Until the chill made me go in.
Charles Simic (1938–2023) was a poet, essayist, translator, and editor. Born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, he immigrated to the U.S. in 1954 and began publishing English-language poems in 1959. He received the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, was a MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellow, and served as poet laureate of the United States from 2007 to 2008.