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Doors, Wells, & Spiritual Companionship: Reflections on the Poem "Locked Out"

Apr 05, 2022

Locked Out


For tens of years I have been trying to get back in,

without even knowing I had been locked out.

When the door opened,

I didn't realize it had been shut.

The doorway, an unheard whisper.

Joy and sorrow became easier.


I had locked myself out of the well.

The bucket lowered with no way to raise it.

A threadbare rope still attached.

I suppose it was the hoisting mechanism that shut down,

a good thing at the time.


But good things can have shadows and sludge.

They can be warm like sirens.

Evaporation threatened the well.

Minor attempts to raise the bucket failed.

Journals started, abandoned, pots pinched, then left unfired.

I didn't know I had locked myself out.


One day in the car,

not long after stretching the muscles of written word,

I found myself singing songs I had been singing forever,

but to the wrong person.

I had been singing to her, singing to him,

when suddenly and to my astonishment

I began singing to myself,

and in that moment of movement

the gears cleared, the bucket accessible to

and from the well.


The lowering and raising can still present challenges,

halting, jerking, slipping.

But with a firm hand, and a safe space

I can usually at least get my lips wet.



--Nancy Smith


Amherst Writers & Artists Affiliate in Massachusetts. Used by permission.


“This poem represents to me, at least in part, what we do as spiritual directors. We help people make their way to—or back to, as the case may be—the well. We invite them to lower the rope once again, all the while honoring the times when the mechanism wasn’t working or the well seemed dry or inaccessible. In short, we companion fellow pilgrims as they make their way to and from their spiritual source.

Writing Prompt: Think about a time you felt locked out and write for fifteen minutes, following where the writing takes you. I’ll set the timer. Go!"

—Amy-Lyles Wilson, Wisdom Tree Collective Spiritual Direction Mentor  

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