Things in the Well

by Erik Amundsen

The worst thing that could happen, when you're left
without a weapon is a monster in the well
when you are thirsty, for the first thing you end up trying
is the denying of your throat, and firstly,
when it doesn't work -- it never works for long enough
you go searching, hunting in the dark
anything to get your water from a different source,
but the pool has gone all brackish, all filled up
with weeds and onyx catfish, who by force
of habit carry lanterns in their whiskers
like deep sea cousins, while they whisper
you come nearer, rabbit, sweet one, their
epithets for you in dozens, lost without a hook to sink
and they are bigger than they think, their throats
are railroad tunnels, and your life is all the dearer
when you're dying for a drink.

And fox grapes all went sour, bursting with bad liquor,
and the foxes in the arbor, quicker, still
than you can track them, they use boomerangs
to knock the squirrels falling from the trees,
and mark each fall with evil slang, a racket
laughing, scratching, biting till they wheeze
their last two legs, and loud, brocaded jackets.
and they'll taunt you from the thickets,
and they sing the perfect song of wasps and hornets.

And the stream is dry; it's also dammed,
and the story from your grandfather, how he made
a pump of brass and it when it jammed
he went down to get damned water for his glass,
but long ago, before he ever had a daughter,
and the damned men, they don't care for you
or like your mother, and you could put it on
to wear it like the shed skin of the otter
to swim down in that lake crammed behind floodgates
but they'll catch you like they swear they caught her,
and they'll laugh their faces blue. Sly men,
they don't give a dam water, not like they used to do.

The ibis and the heron guard the shoreline
from invaders, wading and like the gorgon,
they've got their brass on, talons,
and Stymphalic steam locked up in beaks.
Listen to it scream and they've been waiting.
It does for frogs and so for you.
They've got good eyes, and ears and for the sneaks
they know exactly what they've got to do,
and scald you red; and screw you blue.

But then there's your well, in the back of your house,
and if it opens like a stony mouth of hell, well,
there's always something hellish
under every home, a gnawing sense
where no black eyed mouse is dumb enough to gnaw,
down in the gloaming. Your monster and your water,
it's what you'll find below,
and sometimes, there's a point,
that there is hell to pay,
and it's in the bucket you must go.
To face the monster for a drink, the risen dead,
the lurker with his suckers on his arms,
the devil, a weevil, or something in between,
down where you drop the bucket
and hope you don't fall in.

Or else you skip it and make do with gin.

Taken broadly, Erik Amundsen has had an interesting life; he's been a baker, an itinerant schoolteacher, worked for two governments and gotten in bar fights overseas. He now lives at the foot of a cemetery in central Connecticut where he writes nasty little stories and poems that shuffle around in the night when he's not looking. Or at least he hopes it's them; something's got to be making those noises and it's not the furnace. He likes apples and pomegranates, but black raspberries are his favorite.

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