The Well: Deborah to Miranda

WHEN the air-raid warden came to put out the light,
I could feel the waters of the well, Miranda,
Rising around me as the city disappeared:
The dark room was home again as though time were
Forty-five years ago in the new moon’s shade,
Clock beating its heart
Within the house, gable-and-cornice-roof-shadow fallen
Across the lawn.
It was the well, Miranda, where you had gone,
Where you had slipped away to see the stars
And in it saw branches of the house reflected,
The white eaves trembling as attic windows opened
Floating and flowering as a roof-tree flowers
In well-deep midnight circling down
Where silver-glinted fruit falls through Orion,
Tree spreading veins through bright or stormy seasons,
Your body poised between two hemispheres.
O see how closely branches resemble roots
Across the mirror tilted to the sky!
Was it not true that, the well’s eye was God’s eye,
The presence that saw Joseph in a pit,
Naked and torn? that looked on water flowing from a rock
In a blessed stream?
That saw the body of the King of Egypt’s daughter
Bend to the source of all waters under earth
As though her eyes had opened on a dream?
So you had run to the well, saw through stilled air
The image of a young girl leaning there,
Flush-tinted breasts, her dark eyes fixed in darkness,
The white limbs quickened with a golden heat
And bright hair streaming
As though she held a lover in her arms.
That was what I saw in your eyes when you returned
And I thought, “Miranda, stolen waters are sweet;
Bread eaten in secret is the soul’s delight.”
I knew you would bring a husband to your side,
That the well was the world’s well rippling at my feet,
Though it engulf me, I could not enter it,
And blood had turned to ice with prophecy . . .
Then from an empty steeple I heard a bell
Speak scores and years and days and hours.
“I must step aside,” I thought; “even my young sister
Must not know what my eyes have seen, my ears have heard.
Let her take my inheritance, let her drink of the well,
Let her enter the house, it is hers.
I am she who may betray as she foretells,
And my knowledge of the night may work us ill.”
Miranda, I have not been home for many years,
And the young men, even your sons’ sons have gone to war;
You are not the thoughtless creature you once were,
And I have outlived my prophecies and tears.
I shall not harm you, I have nothing to foretell —
If we meet, I shall probably speak my songs of praise,
For grief has emptied its waters into the well.