Denise Levertov

The Stricken Children

The Wishing Well was a spring
bubbling clear and soundless into a shallow pool
less than three feet across, a hood of rocks
protecting it, smallest of grottoes, from falling leaves,
the pebbles of past wishes peacefully under-water, old desires
forgotten or fulfilled. No one threw money in, one had to search
for the right small stone.
This was the place from which
year after year in childhood I demanded my departure,
my journeying forth into the world of magical
cities, mountains, otherness—the place which gave
what I asked, and more; to which
still wandering, I returned this year, as if
to gaze once more at the face
of an ancient grandmother.
And I found the well
filled to the shallow brim
with debris of a culture’s sickness—
with bottles, tins, paper, plastic—
the soiled bandages
of its aching unconsciousness.

Does the clogged spring still moisten
the underlayer of waste?
Was it children threw in the rubbish?
Children who don’t dream, or dismiss
their own desires and
toss them down, discarded packaging?
I move away, walking fast, the impetus
of so many journeys pushes me on,
but where are the stricken children of this time, this place,
to travel to, in Time if not in Place,
the grandmother wellspring choked, and themselves not aware
of all they are doing-without?