The River’s Daughter
by Theodora Goss
She walks into the river
with rocks in her pockets,
and the water closes around her
like the arms of a father
saying hello, my lovely one,
hello. How good to see you,
who have been away so long.
The eddying water
tugs at the hem of her dress,
and the small fish gather
to nibble at her ankles, at her knees,
to nibble at her fingers. They will find
it all edible, soon, except
the carnelian ring by which her sister
will identify her.
Bits of paper
float away, the ink now indecipherable.
Was it a note? Notes for another
novel she might have written, something new
to confound the critics? They will cling
to the reeds, will be used
to line ducks’ nests, with the down
from their breasts. The water
rises to her shoulders, lifts her hair.
Come, says the river. I have been waiting
for you so long, my daughter.
Dress yourself in my weeds,
let your hair float in my pools,
take on my attributes: fluidity,
the eternal, elemental flow
for which you always longed.
They are found not in words but water.
You will never find them while you breathe,
not in the world of air.
And she opens her mouth
one final time, saying father,
I am here.
(The image is of Ophelia by Arthur Rackham. But my poem was inspired by the story of Virginia Woolf, although it’s not meant to refer to her specifically. It was published in my poetry collection Songs for Ophelia.)