- Vol. 08
- Chapter 07
The Soul of the River
My elders always forbade me
from going down to the river.
Those inky swirls reminded me
of a witch’s mane; perhaps the bony arms
of her lice would emerge like driftwood.
They were afraid I would be swallowed
by the perfidious beast like a meal.
In fact, it was a river that housed
the drowned souls, alongside
the shoals of placid fish.
Every evening, I watched the dead
float away like Tibetan khadas,
discolored and yet unending.
They fell into the water
the way autumn sheds its pale scales,
one by one; yellow tears.
Then I saw her: the beast within the beast.
The eternal serpent, whose quivering
shook the Himalayas till avalanches
uprooted pines like thorns
from one’s flesh.
The thunderous dragon beckoned,
shaking her luminous mane.
I ignored the persistent cries from
my elders. The river called me out
and I embraced her. She wasn’t ghastly,
her face bore the pain of a thousand
corruptions unjustly levied.
The Soul of the RiverAll she wanted was to herd her
souls down to the darker deltas
and I embraced her vocation.
I have now forgotten my name;
it evaporated with the last screaming bubbles.
I am now older than the silt that flows
under the prussian sheen.
And yet I ride with the serpent
harvesting souls like freshwater pearls.