Friday, October 12, 2007

The Dry Well

Someplace under a dead red bud tree, there is an old well and a rope.

When I was a kid, I'd pull back one of the wood planks and look into the blackness.

For a quarter (sometimes a dollar) from my brother I'd stand on the blanks, bend my knees, push off. The old boards would bend and spring me up. They'd fall back down clattering on the stones. I'd land in the dry dust.

Belly in the dirt, I'd look down into that darkness.

Around noon, if you were lucky you could see fifteen feet and maybe more. My friend said twice a year you could see all the way to the bottom and catch a view of yourself down there. But I never did once, not in fifteen years before we moved away. All I saw was the dirt walls. All I heard was an occasional drip of water, or a plunk from a rock or from some spit. Not even that from a handful of dirt.

If my momma caught me over there by the well she'd have my daddy whip me, but there's a thing for dangerous places we boys had. I wanted to go down to the bottom. I got the rope ready to go. One end was tied around the old tree and another around my waist. I was going down, but I got scared. Would I be able to pull myself back up? I was scrawny and not very strong. Damn that scrawny kid.

I lied, that well ain't there anymore except in my mind. Someone filled it in and someone else put a lot of houses where that well was, and someone cut down that tree. The people who live there now don't know anything about that well. They don't know anything at all. Nothing at all.


Miguel Cuthbert said...

I must break a rule and comment on my own post...

This is of the "Skeeter" genre of Southern Pathos.

Xavier Martel said...

OK - now I have to figure out the allegory...

I think the "well" represents the human potential - the channel between psyche and anima which is visible as a child, though the intellect recoils from the dark depths. As one matures, the well is filled up by the "earth", which is metaphorically the res mundum. The slow attenuation of this channel between soul and consciousness results in the soul being virtually invisible, though, perhaps, there is still water (spirit) at its bottom.

Miguel Cuthbert said...

It was a little allegorical and I think you were on to me.

The well is the call of mysterious and dangerous "deep" places which are a source of inspiration. But as a child, Skeeter can only look in the well, drop rocks, and spit in it. He can't really begin to understand it. When he gets older the well is gone, and its the memory of the well, not the well itself, which is his inspiration.

But now he is bitter and remorseful, not wondering.

This kind of goes along with a "Poem for a Poet," because its the same theme really.