Saint Photina the Martyr

a poem by
RITA SIMMONDS | Mother + Poet

I am fascinated by the New Testament story of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:5-42). I wrote the first draft of this poem in 2011, but was never satisfied with the ending. I did a bit more research and discovered that this woman is remembered as a Saint and Martyr by the Orthodox Church. Knowledge of her martyrdom was the missing piece I needed for (I hope) my final draft. 

Photo by Avi Richards

DEPLETED pail, seared soul.
How I hated this roundtrip,
alone, in the heat of midday
as daily I needed to go,
to draw water from a common


Jacob’s Well: An abyss bitter-
sweet with life’s defilement and relief.
A place of echoes, familiar and strange,
like the weary man who rested there on sun-
scorched stone, addressing me. Were we


He ordered me to give him drink, knowing I was
not his kind. Unkind he spoke my scorn,
warring like the sun on one already worn.

How could he know all I’d been through and the many
who’d been through with


I froze in heat, confused and drawn, my empty pail at his feet.
Its echo cried the drought in me. This echo’s cried
for centuries. One word has turned the flow: Who is this
man who fills and serves yet sits on Jacob’s


He is the depth and brink of me.
I’ll run and spill and spill it