A narrow trail by the muddy Duck River
in Chapel Hill, Tennessee
snakes through a deciduous forest,
winds through a ghostly cedar grove
pulsing with birdsong
as it skirts the yellow-brown stream.
Shielded on the opposite side
by high limestone bluffs,
a fortress wall is bounded by the moat of a river.
Half-hidden in a curve
lies a short finger of tributary
with a thin flow of water
from a brush-bounded, shallow pool
known to locals as the Haunted Spring.
Legend says, many years ago
when a young mother fetching water
bent to dip her bucket,
her baby daughter slipped from her arm,
slid beneath the silvery surface
into the clutches of the cold, deep water.
Visitors today may sometimes spy the daughter
sleuthing the banks at twilight,
bright eyes piercing the darkness
or walking the water in morning mists,
her face gleaming like a small star,
or hovering, a gray fog,
wispy wings glowing white,
gently wafting river vapor, keeping vigil,
waiting for her withered mother to return,
to scoop her in penitent arms again,
to hug her to a wounded heart
and hustle home to their cabin
now invisible in the shimmering woodland mist.