Every month for the past 7 months I have been able to go on a waterhole count. This consists of 12 hours in a brick cube with a slit in the front, through which one observes all animals that come to the waterhole. Before the rains in Namibia kicked in, it could be a pretty energetic affair, especially at the 2pm warthog rush, where there could be 15 or more warthogs all bathing, drinking, running, and digging, and I’m required to remember who is with which group whilst categorising them into age and gender groups, recording whether they drank, and imagining where they are going next when they leave.
OK, pretending they were off to a party with hyenas and pangolins wasn’t necessary, but 12 hours in a box does things to a man, especially after the rains when the animals had better places to be. Therefore, after various attempts to amuse myself over these 84 hours in boxes when animals were absent (including 4 hours on an unsolvable Sudoku and 8 hours creating a drinking board-game), I have started using the downtime during the counts to write, and the poem I’ll share today is one I had been toying with for a while, but needed a solid chunk of time to work on. The story in it was not the one I planned, nor were the characters what I expected, but it was a lot of fun to let them develop throughout the writing. So, the following is one I finished during a waterhole count, entitled “The Mushroom And The Water Nymph”.
The Mushroom And The Water Nymph
Amidst a hidden woodland glade,
He sat unseen amongst the shade.
So tenderly his roots were laid,
And bowing heavy head, he rest.
A lazy stream had cut at whim,
The glade in two to nurture him.
He soaked each worn and weary limb;
By angels’ hand his roots were blessed.
Each tree with aged and kindly face,
Gazed lovingly upon this place.
Each flower stood with gentle grace,
To welcome him as could they best.
To stay as such and while a time,
And nothing more would be sublime.
To pass such chance would be a crime,
Neglecting being here a guest.
The Sun now tossed her golden hair,
And dancing tender, on the air,
A nymph came, beautiful and fair,
With all of Summer in her breast.
She burned as bright and danced as wild,
And purely as an untamed child.
To still such storm was sin untrialled;
In her was life’s own heart impressed.
Her footsteps left a print of dew,
And where her feet fell, flowers grew,
Though each would bloom a shade of blue;
To leave her soul leaves all depressed.
She danced upon the silver stream,
Her platform where the fish would teem.
Of host and viewer, all eyes gleam,
Her hidden fan still unprofessed.
She swirled and swayed, and let hair fly,
‘til from the corner of her eye,
She chanced to glance upon her spy.
Her consciousness, in blush, confessed.
Her hand rose slowly to her throat,
But courage then her shyness smote,
And shrugging from her unseen coat,
In boldness were her words hence dressed.
“Wherefore sit thou in silence there?”
She said, “Thou cost me quite a scare,
For others visit here so rare,
That all my focus did arrest.”
“Please pardon me, for I was weak,
And so I sat beside this creek,
But when thou danced, I dared not speak,
For fear of dulling such fine zest.”
A fool she felt, though flattered too.
Her rapid mind found words were few,
But of her guest, then, naught she knew,
So name and face did she request.
He rose up slow into the light,
His colours bared, both red and white.
Grey, wrinkled skin came into sight,
But only joy her eyes expressed.
“How curious thy hue can be,
To one as monochrome as me,
Thou mushroom painted artfully.
Tell me the secret thou ingest.”
Unsure of how her words were meant,
The mushroom’s guarded smile sent,
The nymph to instantly lament,
The careless words she shared in jest.
“I mean to say, I think it fine,
To have a coloured coat as thine,
‘tis art compared to leaf and vine,”
And here she gestured to her vest.
His heart at her words swelled. Behold!
Though woodland-clad, her soul was gold.
He called it love to have her hold,
His heart and to be thus caressed.
He loved her soul, so kind and free,
Her dancing was a sight to see,
So now he asked, “Please dance with me?
Consider this my newfound quest.”
Her eyes lit up, she smiled wide,
And was his secret source of pride.
For hours yet did they then glide;
Their hearts would touch, but for their chest.
As they both danced, they talked the while,
The mushroom said, “Though rare I smile,
And company is not my style,
I’d gladly have these faults redressed.”
Although they talked and danced around,
The mushroom’s roots sucked at the ground,
But while his weakness made no sound,
His weariness went unconfessed.
The nymph then shared herself also:
“With water must I always go.
A water nymph can never slow,
Nor cease to cope with her unrest.
That’s why I danced when this creek chose,
A place where so much beauty grows,
Where one can find some brief repose.
This purest, unspoilt, woodland nest.”
The mushroom’s clever thoughts worked fast,
“I know a way that thou can last,
Right here and never leave too fast,”
And thence his plan did manifest.
They quickly fashioned her some boots,
That, like a mushroom, could grow roots,
And harvest deep, hydrating loots;
The cost was that her feet be tressed.
Her foot was perfect to the shoe,
So side by side their roots then grew.
“Know growing roots is nothing new,”
He said, “So fear not, nor be stressed.”
But water never found her taps;
Such deprivation only saps.
The nymph did weaken ‘til collapse;
The mushroom panicked and distressed.
Immediately the stream flowed out,
And left behind a sudden drought,
Confirming all his darkest doubt;
From shoes, though, she could not be wrest.
In agony his roots were ripped,
And tearing at her feet, he slipped,
The nymph into his arms and tripped,
Behind the stream into the West.
His limbs were pain, but love had stirred,
Him beyond fear until he heard,
Her voice moan senselessly and blurred,
“Be still,” was all he could suggest.
The mushroom had to catch up yet.
The trail did darken and turn wet,
And soon the tail-end had been met,
Before too far the stream progressed.
He hoped his actions did redeem,
His blinded, selfish fever-dream,
By taking her back to her stream,
Reversing how he had obsessed.
The stream welcomed the nymph and bore,
Her safe as he fell to the floor,
And knowing he would walk no more,
So thus he made his sole bequest:
That when she wake on distant shore,
His life for hers he did implore,
That she might someday dance once more,
And bowing heavy head, he rest.