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June 11, 2014 / Fantelius

The Well Poisoner 2/2 (by Elvi Sinervo)

DoorWallShadows1_7990(continued from yesterday)

But the sickness spread through the village and no one
who bathed in their holy well was cured.
Once again I escaped from my home
where I had been kept locked up.
I went into the village when darkness had fallen
and when I met young people I said to them:
“Don’t believe the elders! Their wisdom has dried up
like the water in their well.
Their well is full of disease. Their well is poisoned.”

But my words were turned against me and became a snake
on people’s tongues that hissed evil
as it crawled from house to house and mouth to mouth.
Two of my neighbours, two armed men,
captured me on the village road and brought me before the council:
“You have poisoned the well in our village.
You have killed half the people in our village.
The council shall sentence you.”

I torn myself out of their grip and ran away.
But they cried: “Poisoner! Stop the witch!
She has poisoned the well in our village and admitted it herself.”

The people in the village who had not yet become sick
went wild when they heard the cry
because fear had darken their minds.
Their fear of death and will to live
were turned into hate against me.
Men dropped what they were doing and joined the pack.
Women put their sick children aside
and lifted their skirt hems to run after me.
The air above the village echoed the cries of the children:
Poisoner! Poisoner!
And those who had no sword or knife or any other weapon
grabbed poles and gathered stones –
everyone wanted to kill me.
***

I ran away from them through the narrow alleys of my village.
I ran away through the village where I was born and grew up
among my friends. No one had hated me.

I ran along the road
where I had scrubbed my knees as a child
and where I had recently walked as a maiden beside my beloved.
Some of their stones hit me but I kept running.
I ran to my home to seek protection in my mother’s arms.
But I saw my mother come out of the house
with a scream on her lips and she threw a curse at me.
I saw my brother reach for a spear and join my murderers.

I still had a sister who was dearer to me than anyone else,
who I had shared my childhood bed with
and the dreams of my youth.
But she came at me from the doorstep of her home
carrying a stick which she raised to strike
and her words poured down on me like stones.

Then my feet grew heavy with sorrow and I stumbled.
The frenzy of the pack turned to triumph:
“The witch can no longer run. The devil has abandoned her.”
***

I begged wings of the wind for the sake of my innocence,
to no avail.
I wished for a solar eclipse so that the night
could throw its dark cloak between me and my executioners,
to no avail.
I heard their panting on my neck as they caught up to me
and when I fell down on this place
a spear,
from the hand of the boy
who filled my innocent dreams,
bored through me.
But the knives and stones from the others
gave me no pain
because as I lay riveted to the earth
my dying ears heard only the murmur of running water.
***

In order to further ridicule my impudence
the began to bury my body on this very place
where I had brought their well diggers.

But hardly had they broken the surface of the earth
– oh the victory of my innocence,
oh the triumph of my death –
when clear, singing water burst forth.

And when they pulled the spear from my body
my young blood united with the song of the water.
The stones which they had thrown at me
were used to build this well.
*************

(This poem is one of the last poems in the book The Virgin’s Well that came out in 1956 in Finland. Elvi was 44 years od.

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