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The Well

Dreamed ca. 1960 by Denise Levertov
The Muse
    in her dark habit,
    wades into deep water.

The spring where she
    will fill her pitcher to the brim
wells out
    below the lake's surface, among
papyrus, where a stream
    enters the lake and is crossed
by the bridge on which I stand.

She stoops
    to gently dip and deep enough.
Her face resembles
    the face of the young actress who played
Miss Annie Sullivan, she who
    spelled the word 'water' into the palm
of Helen Keller, opening
    the doors of the world.

In the baroque park,
    transformed as I neared the water
    to Valentines, a place of origin,
I stand on a bridge of one span
and see this calm act, this gathering up
    of life, of spring water

and the Muse gliding then
    in her barge without sails, without
oars or motor, across
    the dark lake, and I know

no interpretation of these mysteries
    although I know she is the Muse
and that the humble
    tributary of Roding is
one with Alpheus, the god who as a river
    flowed through the salt sea to his love's well

so that my heart leaps
    in wonder.
Cold, fresh, deep, I feel the word 'water'
    spelled in my left palm.

SOURCE: Levertov's collection The Jacob's Ladder (New York, New Directions, 1961).

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