“The Well”

I wrote a short story for an undergraduate course about six years ago called “The Seaside Requiem”; I will not describe the plot of this story, except to say that it chronicles a young husband’s untimely loss. The following poem is apparently from that same young husband’s point of view, only a year or so later. I’m not sure what prompted this reprisal of character, but I suppose it just goes to show that some characters stay with their writers subconsciously, or more precisely, some characters are their writers on certain levels.

***

It had been almost a full year since the funeral,
And wanting to feign moving on, I thought I’d buy some
New property. “Where are you buying?” an acquaintance
Asked; “Florida? Real estate’s dirt cheap in Florida.”
“No,” I replied–in truth, I didn’t know. I arrived
At an abandoned farmhouse a few kilometers
Outside Florence. The realtor said, “The buildings have
Been vacant since the end of the War, when the Allies
Pulled out and flew home. After that, squatters and drifters
Stayed on the grounds. Nothing permanent.” The realtor,
A bone-thing young woman, seemed too young to know what she
Had been talking about–what could she possibly know
About permanence? I ignored her young ignorance.
I drifted through the foyer, where sunlight burst through the
Walls and illuminated the danse macabre of all
The dust particles shaken briefly to life by my
Intrusion. What had once been described as a living
Room, I saw, was now a cemetery for broken
Furniture and various varieties of leaves.
The kitchen had apparently burned up with the flight
Of the Allies, for the walls stared at me longingly
Through their blackened visages, too burnt and dry to weep
Their beige paint, instead letting what was left flake upon
The red brick floor. It was then, looking at the flaking
Walls looking back at me that I felt another’s gaze
Striking the back of my head. It was you, I was sure;
I turned around, certain I would see you hovering
Above me with your feathered wings and golden halo;
But my expectations shattered into thousands of
Guilty shards when I saw a sparrow–not you–looking
Back at me, perched upon a patch of the ceiling that
Had long ago given way to the roof, and thus the
Sky. I shed the tears the blackened walls could not, and I
Dashed outside, unable to bear any longer the
House that was as haunted as me. I found an exit
Just off the kitchen, and, looking at the grounds before
Me, I understood why the real estate agency
Had rescued the farmhouse from the drifters and squatters:
Acres of olive trees, long since left untended and
Wildly grown over. Untamed though it was, I could see
The potential nevertheless: it could be lively
Once more, provided the appropriate attention.
Just before the wilds of the olive orchard, there sat
A well composed of river rocks mortared together.
Curious as a four-year-old, I peered over the
Mortared stones and looked into the crystalline water.
I half expected to find Delphic visions of things
To come, and half expected to see my haunted face;
But what I saw instead defied all expectations:
I saw you, your hair flowing down as a waterfall
Cascades into a quiet forest river; I saw
You, dancing round as you used to when the desire struck;
I saw you, cradling the children you would not have
And weeping inconsolably as all robbed mothers
Do; I saw you cradling me, the only baby you’d
Have; I saw you asleep, your head resting upon my
Chest, your calm, unpained face the visage of the angel
I knew you’d soon become; and at last I saw you on
Our wedding day, a vision in heavenly white, your
Hair still flowing, life still flowing, hope still flowing. I
Stepped forward to lift up your veil; I grasped the lacy
Fabric, pulled the veil up, and found your porcelain face.
Too white now–something wrong. You began to shatter like
An ornamental vase into thousands of guilty
Shards. I caught all of you that I could, but at last found
Myself holding only your sleeping, angelic face.
“It requires some work, that is for sure,” said the bone-thin
Realtor, “but there is much potential hidden here.”
“I think I’ll pass,” I replied, pulling myself up from
The river rock well. “There are too many memories.”

[2010]

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