Deborah-Zenha Adams

Counsel for Going to the Western Territory

after Anne McAlexander

If you’re bound to go then take this charm I made when
your feet first started itching, and beg God to grant you
fortitude, for the westward road is dangerous. Once you start
out don’t glance back unless you mean to follow your gaze. Take
a yellow buckeye in your pocket to rub for luck and comfort. If a
rabbit should cross your path, walk nine steps backwards at a steady
pace then turn around and relish the breeze. When you come to a gate
that bars your way, sidle around or climb over, go under if you have
to, but don’t linger, for there’s some will seek all advantages of a
hesitating traveler. Don’t cut sassafras or ash limbs to build a new
fire, for a whiff might make you wistful. If you meet a black horse
draw an X in the air three times with one finger then toss a stone
in the direction you came from. Don’t listen to the wood owl that
sounds a mournful wail nor the familiar call of a whippoorwill.
Hold your breath when you pass a graveyard so you’ll not
draw in the soul of one who died from lonesome and fly
yourself home again without even meaning to, back
where you started, content to stay forever on
this mountain with people who love you.