Santa Cruz, California, USA
They go down to the river with a hard, sharp sound.
They go into the river like they're walking into the ground.
The river's a cold, dark door, Lord, and all of them carry its key.
The river's an endless roadway that loops between land and sea.
They are brimming over with water, brimming over with birth.
They are blood and bones and nets of nerves ready to nourish earth.
Their choice is not the river. Their choice is the rose and the day.
But they love the men who leave them, so they come to the river to pray.
They pray with the blood of birthing. They pray as their bodies break.
They are here for the love of loving, for each open heart's mistake.
So many men are restless, roaming through muck and murk.
They forget where they put their children when they carry out their work.
They forget where they put their loving the moment they walk away,
which is why all over the world, Lord, women enter the river and pray.
that last kiss
before leaving for war
the length of daylight
thinner each dawn
Author's Note: The rhythm of gospel music informs the non-tanka portion of this poem, which is set in a time and place when and where the work of women (including in raising food, in feeding their families, and in nurturing) appears to be discounted. Sweeping generalizations are made without apology. The time of the U.S. Civil War might come to mind.