We were city folk, born to ease—
My mother pouring delicate wine into thin cups,
Her eyes clear and warm,
Her olive skin translucent;
My sisters, generally bejeweled,
Their golden earrings jingling softly
As they walked (or rather slithered)
In silken sandals.
My brothers and I had gained our strength
From horsemanship and swordplay;
For there were others in our establishment
To guide the plough, to pluck the grapes from the vines
And trample out their purple juices,
And to drive the surly camels across the endless sands,
Though we handled the smooth silks
And smelled the pungent herbs
And counted the payment for them.
My father’s blue eyes were always somewhere else,
Yet I understand they had been sharp at trade
In his younger years.
Our city, Jerusalem, was home to me;
I loved its shady paths, its cobblestones,
Its gardens green with laurel
And bright with oleanders,
Its games and intrigue (which some called decadent),
Its sloe-eyed, quick-witted women,
And the temple atop a high hill
Over its spring of living water.
I say I loved it well,
But when my brother echoed my own feeling
That what our father said was true,
I gathered up our goods,
Climbed atop a dun-flecked camel,
And saw my whitish city for the last time
In the expectant light of early morning,
Its towers framed in our own palm trees;
I saluted it,
Then turned my face toward the desert
And never looked back.
(See 1 Ne. 1–7.)
The Waters of Mormon
I am not one of that choice
Four hundred and fifty souls
Who followed Alma to the place
And waters of Mormon,
That living fountain set in
Richly virgin foliage and flowers
And guarded by fierce innocents.
But I have come from
Those selfsame waters
Wherein I was washed clean
Of envy and greed
And laved with a desire
To bear another’s burdens,
That they may be light,
To mourn with those who mourn,
And comfort those
Who are in need of comfort,
And to stand, thus made clean,
A witness of God
At all times and in all things
Wheresoever I may be.
The Title of Liberty
For our tenth-year day I made for my love
A coat of finest skins.
How proudly he wore it
And how I delighted in him,
His head held high.
He was wearing it when he led our warriors
In the defense of Manti;
My heart, my hopes, and my arms were my gift
Hourly he was in my eyes.
I felt the coat’s smooth front against my cheek
When, magnanimous in victory,
My love returned
And lifted me to his kiss.
Then when Amalickiah
Contended for the judgment seat,
Promising peace, rapport with the enemy,
And a lowering of taxes,
And only subtly suggesting monarchy,
Himself the king;
And many of our friends,
Grown tired of wars,
With loss of husbands, fathers, sons,
Lent listening ears,
For most of a day
My husband sat hunched in the sun,
His coat tight across his back,
Head bowed, eyes brooding.
At dawn I heard the clank of metal
And shivered in my nightdress as I knelt
To share his fervent prayer.
My eyes were wide as he took his cimeter
And rent asunder the coat,
Then wrote upon it his loves:
God, the church, freedom, his wives, our children,
And raised it upon a pole.
How glorious there in that early morning light
The rent coat, making my husband,
And all who repaired to it, whole.
(See Alma 46–51.)
Moroni, My Son
In an early year of our uneasy peace
My wife brought forth a son, a solemn boy.
His eager eyes would follow me before
His feet could go; and when at last they could,
He toddled, walked, then strode beside me, all
My errands his. And now again his arm
Is mine. We hurl, hew, and grapple—not
For homes, for wives, for friends, for they are not;
We fight because we make defense or yield
Our witness of the Christ. My son’s keen eyes
Are warm, compassionate, as yet I glimpse
Them through his helmet’s narrow slit. My own
Would blur in gratitude, that he who grew
To manhood knowing war and hateful truce
Thinks mercy, charity for brethren foe.
That look I will carry with me when I go
And place it gratefully at Jesus’ throne.
To My New Born Child
We lived together,
you and I,
fed from tables
where I chose with
on a spoon
or strength by glass,
certain of your
Nights I willed
my possibles to you,
prayed whatever right
was in me
to be yours.
and yellow sun
I filtered consciously
through layered pores
to let you
in your silent darkness
sense your daily
Afternoons I ran us both
beyond the edges
by wisdom and propriety,
extending every boundary
that jealous time imposed.
Through jagged months
Now with sudden
“I am one!”
And we are two,
you and I.
as you may never know.