On the Way to the Riverside – Amanda Depperschmidt

I.

In the house of the spirit,
in the hour of the mother,
we spilled the purifying salts,
sprinkled pillows with rosemary,
and from our blessings discarded to the
Vestal fire we heard
the chime of the ritual bell break through
the silence that sat in the dark.

II.
In the light of the day there is a certain green
in the moss and in the caterpillars that helps me
know numbers and feelings and reasons.
And as I run with my rabbit past empty lawns,
past rivers and old bungalows there’s a feather
in place of where my heart is.
But if I remember something far, something vague,
I’ll feel as though the tide somehow rolls up against me
like the hare who falls prey to her hunter.
When the night comes I’ll lay awake from my hunger and
my mistakes as the hauntings that visit
shake the books from my shelves and sound out that
deafening bell as if life comes 
only to those who fear it.
And when I reach out to the faces I have known through
many lifetimes who have now left me 
alone in this one I won’t cry out 
for I am what I chose, or is it
the bells that have chosen?


Follow me down to the barren oak grove,
wrap my wrists with sisal twine,
roll my body over dead fallen leaves,
into a circle of cut branches and stone.
Seven robes closing in,
seven days lost to desert sands.
And through the hymns and the chants I begin to sense
my soul rising out of me to be replaced 
with that of another.
From the north and up at the top of a tree there is 
a woodpecker knocking hollowly at the trunk of 
his old oak tree 
while in the grove where I sat 
burns a haunting light, green 
as the moss and as weightless as a feather.
And if I told you would you believe that wicked bell
rang out and broke through 
the circle I lay tied to.

III.
These days I find myself visited by the spirit of a girl,
wild, unsophisticated, and hungry.
She knocks at the door and spooks my dog from my porch
and I don’t know if she is me or if she is another.

IV.
Swimming out to meet the sea dogs,
my white tigers rhythmic at my side,
we stir up fallen blossoms and petals,
the seaweed and barnacles bending and
rolling under our feet.
We have another two hours of daylight.
It is the last stretch of summer and
the days are long.
At the shore we snack on apples,
watermelon juice, and shrimp from the
Florida Keys.
To the north a shuttle launches.
To the east, across the ocean,
a distant relative or
a former friend,
once my mother,
twice my daughter,
wraps a bell around her cat.

V.
On the wastes digging up bones,
stars sliding backwards.
At the village out west,
the bells burn through cold white noise
as they carry my body to the riverside.


Amanda Depperschmidt is a bookseller in the PPR zone at Powell’s City of Books.

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