Nellie Girl: Nilla Pedersen Christensen, Pioneer Woman

Nellie girl,
Mark well the music of the blue fjords
Strumming their glaciered mountains;
And store for future desert thirst
The snow-touched streamlets.
Remember, as well as your nineteen summers can,
And write it all in the Book of Forever.
Slip into your mind’s valise
You go alone,
And for you, Lot’s child,
There will be no mirrored glance.
No, never.
Ocean Journey
Night, Nellie girl,
Time for star wondering
And moon dreaming.
White sea tongues
Lap the Tapscott’s planked seams,
And dream doors open,
Beckoning fantasy’s return:
You can escape the ponderous now.
And restless wave.
Your young body and spirit,
Alike in strength,
Spend themselves freely
In love-rewarded labor.
Nellie girl, look—
The handcarts are prepared.
Outstretched wooden arms
Strain for your firm clasp.
Frail willow, along the way
You bend—but there is Andrew,
Who at journey’s end
Will husband your eternity.
Days merge and melt
Vast upon the glowing plain,
Their ovened glaze,
Proclaiming Stoddard’s Company
Tenth and last.
Mount Pleasant
Zion, Nellie girl,
Your soul’s thirst quenched;
Sheltered deep at first
In a dugout nest of sod
You bear Nicoline, Andrew, David,
Christian, Nephi, Bertha, Hilda—
Spirits from whose seed
Will come an apostle of God.
Now thirty-five, heart spent,
Your loved ones grieve;
For He dispatched twin angels
Who come to take your hands
And lead you gently home
To rest.

Jacob Smith of Somerset

From dust they came, to dust they went,
And among the flecks of dust I hunt for them.
It’s only from a distance that they look the same—
They have more variety than snowflakes,
Although like six-pointed crystals they wear vital statistics
In perfect order across the papers and the books.
Among all the Jacob Smiths of Somerset
Is one whose wife was Elizabeth,
Whose trade was tanning, whose sons
All went to America, who was born
Around 1599, who died who-knows-when.
But I must know when, and when he married,
Where he was born, where he is buried,
So that when all the dust is winnowed at the end
He can hear his known and unknown names
And rise.
See how the dust rises in the shaft of sunlight
From my afternoon window. The light and the dust
Fall imperceptibly on my hands
And hold them to the book, to the page, to the pen.

Idaho Falls Temple

On that sand bluff against the Snake,
they told me, the temple will be built.
On my hill? I asked, where rough-shod
or barefoot I liked so much to play:
coasting my sled in winter
or watching the brown-backed swallows
burrow holes in May to hide their nests.
How little we suspect as children
just who or where the hallowed are.
How long the desert bush waited to burn
while indifferent shepherds grazed their flocks,
unsuspecting, on Sinai’s calm slopes.

Temple Heights

My eyes
length upon length,
slender spires,
against an azure sky.
As truth
my rough edges,
let me emerge
clean as bone
that I may
prove worthy to enter
His House.

[illustration] Illustrated by Mike Nelson