At the well

For a while your inner strength
Bound the strands of empire on your dark head.
But with distraction one lock fell, then another,
And down upon your neck and shoulders came your hair.

The Samaritan woman had hair like yours
That spilled like water from its combs
And gleamed in sunlight as she retreated,
Chastized, body trembling.

You approach the pool, the dancing water
(“I’m so thirsty; my head is spinning”),
You drink, swallow, and surrender.
You let him touch you, and with your legs you pin him there.
From your eyes the living water pours and stands upon the pillow.
In the drops you see your daughter safe within the walls.

Disengaging and rolling from the bed,
You fall into the pool to find the nights you lost;
Sleek and black your hair flows behind you,
Your legacy of pride and shame.
Propelled by laughing hands and waves within the water
You close your eyes and relinquish your command
As the gods raise you wriggling.

On the shore you find strange faces
Who think you strange, spent argonaut,
With your mane and shivering skin
And eyes in which a briny water brims.
Trouble in the water tells of yearning,
But its hidden depths are dark and pure
And still, humming with a granite music
To which the shore folk bend their ears
And peer into the deepening pools to hear
Sounds which from you are concealed.

Blinking through the stinging water you are alone.
We others, only, hear the low and sibilant tones
Of a heart at work, of a soul
Sown in tiny seeds in the silt of many passions.
Germinating, swept away, as the pulsing river scours the gorge;
Germinating, frozen, as winter comes too soon
To the moon-soaked canyon of your doubt;
Germinating, finally, and flowering in a sunny fissure,
Flaming, fading, spreading seeds in you
That seize small and tender places
With quiet violence, blanketing your dreams
Under seas of flowing lavender,
Bearing you up from the scrubby arroyo in which your mind has lain.

The lavender, too, dries and fades.
You chase and plunge and claw the inner air
To find the scent that sent you peace
That night, on wind, on wings, in water
As you stood, amazed, in the golden light and knew
The fleeing dream was hard and real.

And you want it back in beauty,
In love, in body, in the grace of words;
In words most of all, words like sculptor’s walnut,
Hard but ductile in patient hands.

Both sign and substance, words paint patches of the vision
That took you in the blooming meadow
Of drunken lavender, waving at the floating bees,
And you, the seer seen within the vision
Are comprehended, grasped, forgiven,
Left loving with no object,
Knowing for no daily task,
Seeing, dreaming: a heart unwound,
Drinking deeply at the well.