by L. Shapley Bassen
Where the Well Was – 2017
How hilly and stony it is here in Rhode Island
where the well was the last level before the final descent to the river.
Where the well was above, underground water ran downhill to the river
before it flowed south to the ocean. The river’d been dammed up century
before last for the factory whose machines it ran, and the well above the last hill
was where the workers drew water at what became an intersection. When
the way was paved over, a beacon placed over the well cover pulsed a caution.
A tin-ceilinged one room post office was on one corner of the intersection where
water had been drawn out of the well. A statue of a World War One soldier
was moved from near the beacon light up the hill to where a scout earned
his Eagle by creating a pocket park, a bench with plantings where
the brick elementary once was, thereby naming the road School Street.
The beacon, hit by a car, was not replaced, and our old post office just
burned down. The park was renovated with a white gazebo and saplings.
The unseen, unnamed underground stream still runs downhill into
Sneechteconnet, renamed for William Blackstone who rejected intolerance
three centuries ago. He paid the natives for the land that was theirs. He was
followed by Roger Williams who did the same when Winthrop’s City on a Hill
ceased to be a beacon and a light unto the generations. Grave times now
in Lady Liberty’s unwelcoming land where greed and rancor replace civility,
where the well was faces the steep incline of gravity.
The ache is a treasure. Grief is a gift.
Orchids, overwatered, drop blossoms
on the windowsill. They will not abide
condolence. Nature is practical,
practiced, pedantic: water rarely;
avoid the green leaves and woven roots
which remain and will convert photons
into blooms again. The fallen are lost,
save for the luxuries of ache, of grief.