The river is complicit

She had been walking by the banks
and talked to sailors;
in the taverns there were whispers
and we made millstones out of rumors
even long before the night when
she went missing.

We found a jute sack with her head
and asked the river for the rest.
Slick with river water and with its
black tongues licking calves and thighs
we dragged for legs and torso.

It wasn’t for a closure but maybe to
expose our lies we searched and found.
We wondered how such wounds
we found can be inflicted
without a hand to wield a sickle.

We wondered why a woman
cannot be alone with strangers
and why the river and its men
were too complacent and complicit

They say that time will pass,
and rivers wash away our sins,
but ever since, there have been corpses
found as if the river asks for justice.

Untitled by Thomas Eakins (1910)

A picture prompt at toads actually made me think of the murder of women, especially after the journalist Kim Wall have lost her life (maybe murdered) and now parts of her body are being found. This will also be linked to Poetry Pantry

October 7, 2017

42 responses to “The river is complicit

  1. As soon as i began to read your tale, i knew the context in which you were writing, having just read the latest report.
    Your words ring very true:
    We wondered why a woman
    cannot be alone with strangers

    Such grisly discoveries seem the realm of fiction rather than fact.

  2. Whew, Bjorn….this is a stunner of a poem! The words:
    “We wondered how such wounds
    we found can be inflicted
    without a hand to wield a sickle.”
    made me picture Evil doing this horrific deed with a glare like that of Satan on his face. And yes, why is it that a woman cannot experience safety among strangers! Very sad / very tragic situation well penned.

  3. I often why none of us are ever truly safe when we step outside of our own context. We should all be safe but sadly, we are not. I do not know of the death of Kim Wall. I have stopped reading the news.

  4. What horrirfying imagery you have produced in this poem Bjorn with the body of the victim doubly punished by the sea creatures. Sadly such events continue on worldwide negating the word humane!

  5. Crime be it of any nature is ghastly. Here in India such stories are splashed all over the newspapers almost every day. The history man race is losing its humanity somewhere.

  6. I can see how this picture prompt made you think of murder and the case of Kim Wall. I’ve been watching the news coverage with interest and wonder about all the other missing women around the world.
    I love the title of your poem, Bjorn, although I think maybe the river could also be described a complicit because it kept the body parts hidden for so long.
    The language in this poem is so effective, especially in the lines:
    ‘…we made millstones out of rumors’;
    ‘…asked the river for the rest.
    Slick with river water and with its
    black tongues licking calves and thighs’
    and
    ‘We wondered why a woman
    cannot be alone with strangers
    and why the river and its men
    (and we) were so complacent’.

  7. why a woman cannot be alone with strangers… great question Bjorn… surprisingly in my country rape statistics show that more than 90% of the time the perpetrator is a known person from the close social circle. Why is the world so complacent!? This poem deserves to be read over and over.

  8. a grisly reference to recent events and all the other dredgings but so beautifully woven into the net – maybe the river refuses to hide them forever and returns them for justice

  9. Chilling. I love the black tongue, millstone made of rumors and the question: why can’t women be alone with strangers.

  10. I’m not familiar with this bit of news but your poem captures it. A complacent river, an unjust world; beautiful.

  11. I had not heard of the Kim Wall tragedy until I read your poem and sought out further information. You have captured the horror with words that are inspired, Bjorn. “as if the river asks for justice” is a touching final line.

  12. “As if the river asks for justice.” Thanks for raising the specter of missing and murdered women, Bjorn. For they are everywhere. In Canada we have many murdered and missing indigenous women, especially. The government keeps having “inquiries” that come to nothing. Meanwhile the families mourn. A powerful poem.

  13. Wow! Now that was a “write! ” It is nice to say goodbye to “all of me.” Sorry, I couldn’t help myself, got carried away, with the pieces and parts found.

  14. This is a wow–the level of violence in all its forms against women makes me so very sad–somehow dragging the water for the pieces of her body seems right–the water lapping and washing

  15. Although I see the timely connection to Kim Wall, I think this touches on something a little deeper, for which things like Kim Wall are just a symptom. You do such a good job here of lending a visual. The idea of the river with its tongues and dredging the river bottom to see what else we’ve hidden from ourselves. Stunning, Bjorn. Thanks for posting!!!!

  16. Your poems amaze me, Bjorn. they’re like the best of their forms and read like poems that are often selected for publication in a book. You’ve got a lot of talent. Great write! Oh and this poem’s storyline is what I love to read about. so that’s alot! thanks for sharing it. sad that women have to go through this kind of brutality almost everyday. it’s very bad.

  17. Impactful … intense … hypnotic … the writing is stunning … haunting … and quite magnificent. ‘We wondered why a woman
    cannot be alone with strangers’ … that is, indeed, a thing to wonder on.

  18. The images, the story line, the power of the voice… are magnificent. Your poem reads like a great movie, or a better documentary. I can see it all–the damage, the rot, the injustice–and hear the river asking why, and who will pay?

    These two lines: “We found a jute sack with her head/ and asked the river for the rest” are stunning in their beauty and depth.

  19. This is so powerful, Bjorn! i had a vague awareness of the Kim Wall incident, but none of the detail.

    There are many horrible men in the world. We all suffer for it, but women suffer the most.

    namaste
    JzB

  20. kaykuala

    but ever since, there have been corpses
    found as if the river asks for justice.

    Justice will be delivered it’s just a matter of time. It is more of the circumstances surrounding the elements attached to the person!

  21. You got me at the title, and then the whole poem held me, not a line would let me go.

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