An Ode to the Gila River/Wilderness
by Katherine West
I have heard that one cannot recognize a soulmate until the soul inhabits the body. I have heard that ancient shamans practiced "soul retrieval." I have heard desalmado in Spanish, to be unsouled. We don't seem to have this verb in English, and yet we have the disease.
I have lived in wild places, but I have not been wild. I have lived in the jungle where there is no sky. I have lived in mountains where sky speaks in spectrums of color and mackerel textures. I have lived in dim canyons waiting for sun and avalanche. My body lived there, waiting for its soul, its soulmate.
I have heard there's a gene for belief. I have heard it's a matter of neurotransmitters. But God is not my problem, not my equation to balance. I am the telegraph operator, the receiver and sender of messages, of codes, of SOS.
I have spent years, no, decades tuned to the wrong frequency, to static, to a litany of commercials for Self. I spent one week with the Gila River, one week with uninterrupted rippling over stones and pooling into eddies, into the empty wells of my life, filling them day and night until they overflowed and drowned everything that was not soul. Soul. Savage. Wild. Wilderness. Soul. Soulmate.
* * * * *
Katherine West lives in Southwest New Mexico, near the Gila Wilderness, where she writes poetry about the soul-importance of wilderness and performs it with her musician husband, Yaakov. She has written three collections of poetry: The Bone Train, Scimitar Dreams, and Riddle, as well as one novel, Lion Tamer. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Lalitamba, Bombay Gin, and New Verse News, which recently nominated her poem, And Then the Sky for a Pushcart Prize.