Photine, Going to the Well

(if you are viewing this via email, the website has a recording of this poem and commentary; click the title above)


This kind of poem should probably be written by an experienced counselor, or pastor… someone who really knows the condition of hearts. As a poet, I sometimes just throw words against the wall to see if they stick. It’s like verbal spaghetti. How did Photine perceive herself? Why had she gone from man to man? I have an intuition that men and women long for beauty, especially beauty that is tied to the goodness of a person, ultimately THE Person: God.

I am working my way very slowly through the Gospel of John, and typically spend a few days translating and contemplating each chapter. I wrote the above poem the morning that I started into chapter 4. It was an attempt to imagine what the Samaritan woman might have been thinking as she trekked to the well for water. As I think about her situation in the days after I wrote the poem, I begin to second-guess myself. And that’s okay. It’s helpful to use one’s imagination, not for coming to conclusions, but for generating more questions.

A Grammatical Riddle
Should the last two lines be “competitors FOR peace of mind,” or “competitors WITH peace of mind”? Even thinking through a question like this one raises other questions: 1) would Photine have said that she already had peace of mind? 2) were there false claimants to her peace of mind? 3) was peace of mind really one of Photine’s felt needs in any case? I don’t think any of us knows the answers. But maybe some day we will.

(background image adapted from a photograph by Fr. Lawrence, OP. He comments, “This painting of Christ and the Samaritan Woman is in the museum at the Dominican priory of Santa Sabina in Rome.”)

SUBSCRIBE HERE to receive my latest posts and commentary by email.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share This