When first I went there, tripping and skipping:
Mother’s tongue abetting reviews and previews:
Neighbourhood gossip – deaths and marriages, arbitrarily arranged:
Births too, and pregnancies, planned or accidental –
Small village views exaggerated at the lip of the well.
My girlhood dreams blown through cupped hands
Returning deep and amplified in distant echoes of living water.
Years later, after a first failed marriage – custom made –
Shunned by villagers, who cheered me over the treshold,
I turn the spindle to the pained rhythms of flawed promises:
Drawing cold comfort by dull drudgery of repeated journeys;
Made heedless even to whisperings of deep drowned dreams –
Fragments of pottery strewn like broken vows at my feet!
I grew used to being used: parried with lewd rebuff
Shepherds, herdsmen and travellers
Loitering with intent by shadow of the well’s wall –
Brazened their frank gaze on the soft curves of my body;
Knowledge of power hinted in the loose folds of my cloak.
I would have whom I choose:
Lovers came; lovers left – transience of desire
Dying in the spent embers of their lust.
They had no skills to soothe the fretful child
Thirsting outside love’s lonely door!
Then there came a day unlike any other day –
Save for the sameness of labouring
Under the noon’s unblinking eye -
Shadows spoke to me, inverting experience;
Asking in small measure with the promise
Of immeasurable return.
“Give me a drink” –
Beginning a conversation that should never
Have taken place. Had I kept silence
Then centuries would not have unfolded
Bridged the animosities of time.
I attempted resistance.
Spoke of mountains and temples –
Stone doors of tradition that love’s light debarred.
He called my bluff.
“Go call your husband” – wounding reminders
Of impermanence leaving me crushed, naked,
And thirsting to the soul’s core.
“I am He”.
Words falling like drops of living water
In the torrid wastelands of the heart.
Temples crumbled; mountains lost their mystery.
From under the avalanche of so many failed resurrections
I rose and flung from me the soiled garment of my past
And ran homeward to Sychar – my heart breaking with good news.
© 2011 John McCabe