“Living Water,” a Petrarchean sonnet, follows in the Jewish tradition of midrash, which expands on a moment in Scripture. I was taken with the idea that the Samaritan woman may have been a prostitute or some other type of woman considered disreputable in her society, and that Jesus let himself be seen with her publicly to make the point that she and others like her are worthy of respect. I also loved the idea of her reflecting in old age and telling someone (maybe her granddaughter?) about her personal encounter with the man who came to be venerated as the son of God.
He came to a town in Samaria, where Jacob’s well was. Tired as he was from the journey, he sat down by the well. And a Samaritan woman came to draw water.
If I were married, how could I be here
alone? I said. His black eyes shone. He rose
and laid his workman’s hand upon the stone.
A drink, he asked. I held the cup so near
his lips I felt their heat. He said, men fear
the water that could satisfy their souls.
Do you? I watched the warm wind blow his robe
against his skin. I said, I’ve ears to hear.
Just then the others came, and though he smiled
to see his men, he did not turn from me—
stood with me, woman-stranger, in the sun.
There were a thousand like him in those days,
all swearing with great passion, “I am he;”
But in my memory he’s the only one