Nymet

Ted Hughes

No map or Latin ever

Netted one deity from this river.
TAW meant simply ‘water’.
What became of her
Who poured these pools from her ewer?

Who wove her names for her people
Into a shimmery tent – with alder and oak-leaf

And the flowing deer?
What were her real names?

She painted men’s and women’s souls
Into her tunnel water
With the brother-blood of raven and otter
As into cave-womb rock.

She it was
Laid the glow-cold sea-new salmon
Across their cradling arms
For their obedience.

She it was
With yellow nettle-pollen and the first
              thorn’s confetti
Crushed the May bridegroom’s
Head into her flood.

She bore him fresh splendour
Of eel-wreaths and a glut of white peal.
Where is she now?
A fairy

Drowned in the radio-active Irish Sea.
Blood-donor
To the South-West Water Authority.
Her womb’s been requisitioned.

Now it’s the main sewer
Of the Express Dairy Cheese Factory –
‘Biggest in Europe’.
A miasma

Mourns on the town bridge at odd hours
Over her old home, now her grave.
That’s her.
Barely alive, she rots

But still stirs – a nightly, dewy spectre.
Nameless revenant
In her grave-clothes
Resurrected by her despair

For her shrunk trout, she wipes their mouths
Of the milk-herds’
Daily douche of detergent,
The earthen town’s overkill of hygiene.

And that’s her, weeping under alders
Holding, helpless, all night
Her flayed and fungus-crusted
Salmon to her breast. Soon she’ll be gone

Back up into granite Belstone
To get herself reborn – Eppie or Mavis –
A girl who will love only horses, and nothing
And nobody else ever. Who will try

To ride away into the sky.