for Mary

For fear of polio, as a child,
I’d been made to wear a bathing cap,
not allowed to get hair wet as I swam.

But now here we were:

Behind us a cliff,
and before us
water cascading down,
an in-between space,
like dusk or dawn.

This was not a celebrated waterfall.
And we weren’t scholars
visiting one, in this time out of time.

We weren’t sages gazing at a waterfall.
It was not one painted by Corot at Terni.
We were not figures on a vase

or young girls bathing.

Some might have said we were old,
my friend and I, as we stood
under that small cascade
in Sapphire Valley,
Transylvania County,
North Carolina,
cold, green-blue spring water
pouring down before us,

our hair in shambles,
as I’d waited years for mine to be.

Elizabeth J. Coleman is the editor of Here: Poems for the Planet (Copper Canyon Press, 2019) and the author of two poetry collections, published by Spuyten Duyvil Press (Proof and The Fifth Generation). She also translated the sonnet collection Pythagore, Amoureux into French (Folded Word Press, 2016). Her poems have appeared in many journals, including Colorado Review, Rattle, and Bellevue Literary Review, and in several anthologies.