Littoral Women, by Kevin Schoonover


“Roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair.” Bruce Springsteen

To Matagorda beach where cattle gather at night to escape mosquitos
and white calves lit by the moon
are taken by sharks feeding in the shallows;
here, on Easter morning
Amish women come barefoot with their daughters.

Fully clothed as the day they are born again in water
Amish women wade in the Gulf to their thighs
heads covered
skirts to mid-calf dyed the modest colors of the sky.
They kneel to the wave that covers them
knowing without believing
that this is the Mother they are born from.

Fathers, uncles, brothers, sons walk the beach
dressed in black with their boots laced
or wait in rented, utilitarian vans
discussing scripture, the price of seed corn and harness leather.

Amish mothers in their early 30’s with teenaged daughters
walk to their waists in the surf
remembering mornings when their waters broke
mornings their skirts were saturated with the salt
when waves of pain took them closer to heaven and to hell
than they care now to return.

Amish women know how to plow behind a horse
and when called upon before first light
will throw strong legs across their husband to help him
work the soil

but on Easter morning
touching hands with their daughters in the surf
images of Anabaptist martyrs
of men burned alive, women with pikes driven into them
all slip from the mind.

Holding hands wth their daughters they come as close to dancing
as they are allowed
careful not to cross into waters too deep to come back from.
Mothers and daughters going down with waves between their legs
rip tides tugging at the coarse cotton they are bound in.

Turning their backs to men waiting on shore
nipples show through wet blouses pink as apple blossoms.
Amish women watch the sky come down into the Gulf
the Gulf rising up in waves
to meet them.