A fountain stood
At the centre of a circular clearing,
Carved in marble, its fluted shaft
Crowned with a statue of Lady Luna
In skirt and sandals, hunting gear,
With her bow in her hand. The water arched
From lion masks in the square base
Into a broad, nine‑sided pool
With a noise like anger. The moon was full
And fading out in the very top
Of a brightening sky.
I stepped out into the pale arena.
It felt like tiers of invisible people
Were ranked around me, gazing down.
My head hurt. I was cold and tired
And parched with thirst.
I scanned the circle,
Knelt at the pool and bent to drink‑
Then spun round quickly, fearing to meet
Nose to hook nose the startling face
I'd seen in the water.
But at a distance a loose‑limbed woman
Came strolling over the hummocky grass.
"Now let me guess: the thing you saw
Had a beard like a spade and curly horns..."
The voice was mocking but not unkind.
She was fifty‑odd, at ease with herself,
Friendly, sensual, not like the ghosts,
Her greying auburn hair done up
With clips and combs, her brown face lean
She shifted her weight
To her left hip and, legs apart,
Stood sizing me up, her hands thrust deep
In her jacket pockets.
I spoke my name
And stiffly, like an Englishman,
Held out a hand.
She looked at it,
Then bared her big, irregular teeth
In a wide grin. "Fuck off" she said,
"I know you, Grist‑ and you'd know me
If you'd just think back‑
"You seem surprised."
She hammered home the final word
As though she were ending an argument.
"I used to be pretty; now I'm not.
It's ten years now."