Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Drink {a poem}

concerning John 4:1-42

Drained of usefulness,
Discarded by the roadside
Like an empty amber bottle
Tossed out the window
To shatter on the shoulder,
Only to be swept up,
Ready for the next thirsty customer.

Five times used,
Smarter this time,
Two can play at this game.

My own bottle trades
For a ten-cent deposit.
Broken? It sure is,
But lips bloodied by the drinking are
Better than dying of thirst.
Aren’t they?

Five times been known,
            Five times rejected.
Better now to hide myself
In the loneliness
Of the glaring noonday sun,
Bright enough to keep inquiring minds
            And catcalls from the well,
But no light bright enough
To bleach my scarlet letter—
Indelible ink—
Mama warned me—
To match the faded landscape.

“Give Me a drink?”
Great, another one.
And a Jew, at that.
He should know better.

“If you knew who I am. . . “
More to the point,
If You knew who I am,
We wouldn’t be having this conversation,
But this is a new line, even to me.
OK, I’ll bite:
Tell me more;
(Big shot, eh?
Might be time for me
To cash in
And trade up.)

More promises:
Water to quench
The unquenchable.
A bloomin’ spring,
My own well,
Life that never runs dry.

Suddenly I’m very tired,
Tired of the thirst,
            The bloody lips,
                        The long, hot hiding.
‘Sir, give me this water.’

“Go, call your husband and come back.”
There it is—
I brace for the blow,                                        
Found out again.
Unless. . .
Maybe a way out? Truth?
‘I have no husband.’

Hope shatters.
He knows me already
For the broken bottle I am.
If He knew all along,
Why is He still here?
Has my reputation preceded me—
Is this just one more thirsty customer
Looking for a cheap drink?
Funny, He doesn’t seem like all the others.
What then, a prophet?
Here’s a test:
‘Where should we worship?’
“A time is coming. . .
            Salvation from the Jews. . .
A time is coming and is here. . .
            True worshipers. . .
                        The Father seeks. . .
                                  Spirit and truth. . .”

The Father seeking worshipers,
            This Man seeking me.
       Water seeking out a desert.
Seeking me,
            Even knowing whom He seeks?
Such acceptance:  surely not

“I who speak to you am He.”

A well springs up,
Bubbling and dancing
All over the Samaritan landscape,
“Come and see!
Come and see!
He knows!
He knows it all!
Come and see Messiah!

More springs gush and ripple,
The whole town flooded
With living water
From one broken bottle
Given a Drink.

pondering Good News with the community at Ann's today:

and redemption with Emily and friends: 


  1. What an amazing, poetic take on a passage of scripture that offers so much hope.

  2. nice...i love that story of the woman by the well...and i like how you modernized it a bit and made it much...

  3. This is stunning, Friend. Thanking you for making His Word new to me again. First this grabs me: "Five times been known, five times rejected." Then this: "Water seeking out a desert, seeking me." And at last this: "The whole town flooded with living water from one broken bottle given a drink." Yes. Letting this sink in deep today.

  4. But lips bloodied by the drinking are
    Better than dying of thirst.

    this stopped me, and made me ponder hard. so glad to be back with you, friend. xo

  5. My dear friend Courtney sent me to you today. Read this poem and thought of me. Why would she think of me, I wonder? Because this poem is so so so brilliant, and as a writer, I know I'm not supposed to use so. but so what? My skin is raised, and I am shivering, and I am in awe of these words and the way you paint the picture of my life right here and how in all the world did you know? And how...

    How do I say thanks?


  6. Wow. Just wonderful. The others said my words for me.

  7. This is beautiful! "Water seeking a desert"-- I just love that. And I love the last stanza. Such a creative, insightful poem crafted from this story.
    Our family just watched a movie called "The Gospel of John", a 3 hour film that uses the words straight from the gospel (it is an excellent movie), and the scene from the woman at the well is fresh in my mind-- I could see it being played out as I read your words.
    (It this from your poetry stash? I see the word "stash" as a label.) I wonder how many more treasures are stored there? :) :)

  8. hi Tinuviel,

    back to internet at last! "water seeking a desert" jumped out at me, too. but the whole poem is very arresting. i'm curious whether it seems to you (as it seems to me) in a rather different style from some of your previous poems? as i've often thought before reading your posts, you're such an adventurous blogger! it's great...

    happy after-easter!


  9. Thank you, B. So glad you found hope here.

  10. Thank you, Brian. I look forward to reading your imperfect prose offering tomorrow! Grace to you in Jesus.

  11. Thank you. Thank you for understanding and for your kind words. Enjoy your time unplugged!

  12. Glad you're ready to be back. Thank you for taking time out to visit. Grace and strength to you in Jesus for your full house.

  13. Thank you for such overwhelming grace in your words, Bernadette. Courtney is a treasure, isn't she? I'm so very sorry for the pain that causes you to find yourself in this poem but thankful you have found comfort in Jesus to slake that thirst. More and more grace abound to you, new friend.

  14. Thank you, Sylvia. May God give you strength for your day.

  15. We saw that movie when it first released to theaters, but I don't have a visual memory of that particular scene. It would be worth revisiting. Yes, the label "stash" (like a knitter's yarn stash) means the post comes from things I wrote before there was a blog. Some of them appeared in our missionary newsletter back in the day, and some of them have never had a place to be shared until now. I do try not to post them just to fill space or meet a deadline but because they speak fresh to me in some way. It gladdens me to know this one spoke to you also. Thank you for your kind words, Prasanta.

  16. Hi again, Dr. Chris. It made me smile to see your comment just the morning after your thoughtful postcard arrived. It was so kind of you to think of me. It also made me smile to see the word "adventurous" applied to me in any way, shape, or form.

    Thanks for your thoughts in response to the poem. As to the style difference, part of that is intentional, as this is a dramatic poem in the character of the woman at the well and not a lyric poem in my own voice; part of it may result from the simple passage of time. This poem is of Bangkok vintage, which would be...11 years ago now? I had realized that my understanding of John 4 was limited in part by the chasm between my life experience and the woman's, so I studied the text and then imagined to try and empathize with her a bit more, to walk in her sandals for a few stanzas. The writing of the poem was, I suppose, the final step in that effort. I don't know if that makes sense to you, and it may be more than you meant to ask, but your comment helped me to think through the matter.
    She also interests me in the enthusiasm of her response, so different from the way Jesus' called disciples responded at first to the empty tomb. Her example challenges me in that way.

    Sorry you mentioned it? :) Happy Easter to you too! It's good to have you back.

  17. "Water seeking out a desert" ~ yes! Also love the image of the whole town flooded at the end:) Time to sit and enjoy the words God speaks through you is such a blessing.

  18. Oh, it is your words that bless me. Thank you.


Thank you for sharing your day with me! Your presence here is a gift. *You* are a gift. Right now I am unable to reply to every comment, but please know I read and pray for each and every commenter. Grace and peace to you in Christ.