The Washer at the Ford by Kate Bernadette Benedict

The Washer at the Ford

—from a Celtic Tale

Young man,
if you must cross the river,
cross it here, at the shallows,
at the place of clear water.
Your piebald horse agrees.
She steps forward
to gulp and be slaked.

Why do you rein her?
True, I am not pleasing to look at,
my wild hair no longer black,
my gnarled hands raw
with all this laundering.

You, though!
You are a big handsome fella—
jaw like a sharp crag at Moher,
honey hair,
a goodness about you like honey.
You’ve not been shaving long,
would be my guess,
yet you’re off a’ soldiering.
What war is it this time, then?

On your way, lad.
Don’t bore me.
I’ve no time for questions.
It’s better you don’t know
whose linen it is that wants washing
or why the water around these rocks
runs suddenly red.

by Kate Bernadette Benedict

Editor’s Note: Some poems need context, but since the interwebz lies at our fingertips, it’s the simplest thing in the world to look up that which one does not know. This poem rides on an old story about the bean nighe, and is quite haunting.