The Girl in the Well
by Al Gabor

After the third day,
the village stopped looking for her.
We surrounded her picture with roses,
carried it in procession around the cathedral,
past the soldiers,
until the square was fogged with incense.
And every day we drew water from the well.

The stench covered the square.
Flies everywhere,
until the well looked alive
with a shiny green fur.
Sometimes the bucket caught
on something.
But every day we drew water.

And the maggots brought the crows,
who grew fat and belligerent,
chased the songbirds
from the cathedral eaves,
People ignored their cries
and the long shadows they cast over the square.
And every day we drew water from the well,

Were there people who drank this water?
My mother poured it on the forests' edge,
far away from our house.
We drank tea of boiled creek water
and wild mint.

The young ones who asked about the girl
were answered with lashings,
fell down stairs,
or caught their fingers in doors.
And when they learned,
her name wasn't heard again.

Flowers erupted throughout the forest,
pale swollen blooms no one could identify:
Leaves delicate as ferns,
but stems like twisted wire,
snaring ankles and
choking off the underbrush,
lashing themselves to the tree trunks.

Now those who still walk the forest swear
they hear the wind through the leaves
praying a decade of the rosary
or singing a song children sing
while skipping rope.

Crows crowd the square,
fight over the rice the wedding parties scatter.
What a racket they make!
You cannot hear
the infants at the baptismal fount,
crying under their watery veils.

 

 

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