The King’s Well

by Rebecca Pyle

T here’s a way to write about the king’s well, the well at

A real and secret location.  The way I write is in my head

From saddle, as the horse’s moving moves my hips

Predictably this way and that way, the way water moves

Between rocks or

Flowers bend for the wind.

The well was, is, secret. 


I ride there now.  To the secret.

It bears, or did, a scent like nothing, no one—

Five hundred things, unnameable:  each whiff

Making one think of something unsolved about the

Castle keep, up three (ten?) hills from this well.

How pleased even stones seem 

To be called into service for the king, glowing

Coral, almost warm-looking in the sun;

Cool ivy, hapless and really surely happy ivy, upward

Moving, always growing up as if to harp-strings.

The well has winding stairs you must never stumble

On—bad luck must not happen here:  we must

Always be eager to climb stairs or go down them,

And, as at castle place, not waste much time turning

Or at windows: castle stairs also important, leading

To the low door well beyond the large broad door

Where visitors to the king as we, visitors to his well,

Do that dramatic gathering-up, buckets or

Cloaks, arrangement of handles, or collars, or capes,

The king’s visitors having assumed with urgency

The faces of the important:

Before you meet the king, it’s said

The child in you must be pure and strong.  


I am almost old now and I know almost all the 

Visitors:  but I imagine still the one due to come

Who did not come, held me in wait, servitude, remembrance

Of how far his hair could curl forward.  His eyes watery agates

High and bright and above all others, yet, serious almost deadly

Glint there:  to guard softness also there, soft as water.


Never tell, sir, how I waited for you, and you did not come, later

Told me—strange cold expression—you saved me heartbreak.

You think too highly of yourself, I thought, but now I dull-know

You thought—dully-accurately.  You knew trapped bird-swell,

Or birds’ well heart, of mine, that by gradations must be led, by

Stairs:  I must be held once, thrown back, admired dazzle, bright

Pitied fish.  Though real river would make me gone, and on.

The bird that far-flew.  The fish that far-swam.

So—not.  I’m brought again and again to king’s well.

That birdcage well of waiting.  Reduced to something

Scant-magical, without name, gilt-flash,

Tricksy gold.  Should you even pretend

Really to remember my name?  It must stay protected, sealed 

In its numbness.  In my numbness.  It is written nowhere, 

But there is numbness, around magic, cold still-water magic,

Of air almost held still.

The held breath!  Your own reflection in the well!

I saw it once; it breathes in me.  The circular frame. 

The smell of stones.

I am magic, the opposite of real.

It is true, that curse: you’ve taught me.

Magic, Lord: I cannot bear the real.


About the Author

Rebecca Pyle has had her fiction, poetry, and paintings published in New England Review, Emerson Review, Requited Journal, Indian Review, and in The Remembered Arts Journal. Underwater New York has just published her first poetry chapbook, The Underwater American Songbook; a painting of hers is on the chapbook’s cover.

Rebecca Pyle lives in Utah, not far from the Great Salt Lake. To see her art folio, please go to

A wishing well.