In this late season, who is the woman at the well
drawing water, reflecting on the woman at the well?
Millennial fissures in the well-rim, weed-choked cracks
where brackish water rises for the woman at the well.
At the bottom of the well shaft, the sky’s reflective eye
opens, closes on the shadow of the woman at the well.
Where are the rains of bygone eras? Preterite weather
yields more rusted bucketsful for the woman at the well.
Ancestral well of Jacob, where a weary traveler rests,
where Jesus asks for water from the woman at the well.
Oh plane trees of Samaria, in whose shade a stranger
speaks of artesian fault lines to the woman at the well!
Chaldean fountains, oases of date palms and minarets—
how they flourish in the dreams of the woman at the well!
Mirages of marble, pomegranate flowers, cedars of Baalbek
shimmer in the sight of the woman at the well.
On the night of destiny, the angel Gabriel descends
and hovers by the footprints of the woman at the well.
Jacob’s ladder leans against the door of heaven—
on the bottom rung, the woman at the well.
Women of Sychar, women of Shechem! Draw aside your veils,
reveal the features of the woman at the well.
Wise ones, why do you weep? Do you fear your fate
tips a mirror toward the woman at the well?
Oh artisan of sorrow, mystery’s precision, sit down
beside your sister, second self, the woman at the well.
In memoriam Agha Shahid Ali
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.