Poetry

By Linda Madsen Sheffield


Lucy Mack Smith

First Place All-Church Poetry Contest
My father wandered labyrinthine ways
Of wars and wealth, of sorrow, earth, and sea
For years, until he fled the darkened maze
To hear his Savior’s call: “Come unto me.”
My sister held the slightest trace of breath.
I trembled fears my faith could not control
Until she rose, so bright, unheld by death.
The Lord had healed her body and my soul.
And now my Joseph’s coming, young and slim,
His brother’s shirt to big, hair out of place,
And breathless he speaks, praising, “I’ve seen Him,”
The suns of planets glowing in his face.
No Gabriel is needed at my door.
I’ve seen such light come resting twice before.

[photo] Photography by Casey Buffington

Journey of a Blind Grandmother, Ending

Second Place All-Church Poetry Contest
Growing old, I hear bees
(Or is it light?)—
I hear buzzing bees.
Outside of my hands there is light,
I remember—purple dragonflies
Turning a thousand pointed mirrors,
Golden buttercups refracted by rain,
My mother’s shadowy hands on my brow.
Shadows like those hands cover my eyes, A dark rippling silk
Drawing inner circles of sun
Where the buttercups wake
Along the smooth crevas
Of my mind behind
A smoky lens that breaks light,
Makes geometry of the sun.
Suddenly a shadowy angel
Draws circles, draws me in
Where I may sleep
And wake
And, for the first time,
See.

[photo] Photography by Annabella Laird

Water from a Basin

Third Place All-Church Poetry Contest
How differently the sound of water falling into water,
As it drops from hands just dipped into a basin,
Can approach the ear.

Pilate, Masquerading in his crimson robes, In that instant That fell for him forever out of time, Heard the water splashing flatly With a thickness that to him resembled blood, And knew that it would never cleanse him. And he shuddered As the water twitched and quivered In the basin made of gold, Mocking and distorting the judicious unconcern He had carefully arranged upon his face.

Jesus, Laying aside his garments and taking up a towel And with the water in a basin made of clay, Washed the world’s gray-colored dust From the feet of his apostles And heard the holy music Of the dropping water Echo sweetly through the universe And saw the ripples spread in perfect circles Far beyond the stars And through the Spirit felt the approbation Of the Father: “Thou art my beloved Son.”

[photo] Photography by Marilyn Erd

Legacy

First Place Eliza R. Snow Poetry Contest
If heritage is Nauvoo-cradled kin,
Handcarted hopes, or crickets in your grain,
Born-in-the-covenant splendor shimmering down
Grandsires to sire in awesome golden chain,
Great-great-aunts’ faith that helped the Church begin,
Then we bequeath but bareness, child, for we’ve
No relatives in Utah, heirloom quilts,
Cousins who camped with Brigham ’cross the plains,
Long scripless missions, temples Grandpa built,
No cherished Saints to crown our family tree.
For us, my daughter, “Mormon” starts with me
And Daddy—knees new-trained in pleading prayer—
Lord-led through aching, questing toward belief;
Forsaking well-worn rituals to dare
Be pioneers for all our pedigree.
Not Far West mud, but Friesland’s crisp, diked farms
Great-Grandma knew (yet sacrificed as they):
Years late to share the dawn of Zion’s day.
No mob’s hot hate her mother’s family harmed.
Yet three brief months, at thirty-two, pierced heart
Soul-deep as any member-sister’s plight,
As babes, then spouse, slipped swiftly into death.
Our gentile heroes—hidden from the light—
Were chained, perchance, from taking mortal part.
But we’ve still roots in glory where it began;
We too have Joseph, young and testing James;
Nephi and Enoch and the temple’s peace;
Flint-sparks of Deity in our tinder-frames;
Sweet testimony’s treasure; priesthood’s plan
To comfort, heal, exalt; a prophet’s word.
I savor this—our legacy—and long
To reach each waiting someone, branching back,
And pluck them in, rich, ripe to harvest song
Of keys restored—bright truths they never heard.
Descendant, yes, but mother, too, in this—
I bear salvation’s embryo within,
As Eve, to all my line. Elijah-sent.
Love’s labor—mine—brings forth the promised end
To their imprisonment, and the edge of bliss.
These gain, reversed, new heritage through me
Who lead my forebears toward eternity.

A Mother’s Testament

Second Place Eliza R. Snow Poetry Contest

“And I did remember the words which they said unto me that their mothers had taught them.” (Alma 57:21.)

The record does not bear my name,
yet even so, I, a mother,
have been used by my Creator
to work destiny.
I have been the root of fertile stems,
the source of mighty men.
Beneath the coverlet of evening,
my sons with fathomless eyes
knelt by my side and learned to pray.
In the dawn they were taught to cast their eyes
toward the hills, to work and cultivate the fields.
Yet there were times as I spun fine-twisted linen
they listened to the stories I told of their father,
how he and his brothers buried their bows and arrows
slings, javelins, and swords in deep pits,
then stood on the mound declaring repentance,
vowing never to kill again.
It was then my sons unleashed their questions,
and I prayed the Lord to give me answers.
They grew, distilling the truth of my teachings,
following the face of their father,
knowing the meaning of faith.
Their knowledge shone forth as the sun.
They joined with the others,
two thousand valiant young men
heeding the words of their mothers,
to go forth with Helaman
into the hour of battle, the moment of terror,
strong and true in the Word of the Lord.
I sat by a low fire and thought
of willows waving in the wind
and felt no fear.

Costly Harvest

Third Place Eliza R. Snow Poetry Contest
Sweet peas like jade beads bounce into the bowl,
Guarded close against theft before freezing.
Bottled cherries glow like rubies in the cellar,
Set among quarts of amber apricots.
I blanch broccoli and beans into emeralds
Then freeze them in cellophane-wrapped ingots.
Pine shelves bend slightly under weight of gold:
Peach bullion, corn nuggets, carrot coins.
Pints of tomato sauce bejewel my vault,
And purple beets gather momentary light
As I check opaline sauerkraut fermenting under glass.
My kitchen sends clouds of incense out open windows:
Vinegar, bay, turmeric, nutmeg, allspice, and dill
For jadite pickles, sweet and sour.
Mustard pickles gleam topaz beside zucchini relish.
Pressure processed and pristine, pureed pumpkin
Bumps crystal shoulders with jet jars of grape juice.
Tapping the gold crown of each raspberry-rhubarb gem,
I set it between diadems of peach chutney and Potawatomi jelly.
The mellow odor of drying prunes follows the fragrance
Of peaches and pears from the dryer. With miserly gloat
I sift and turn dried apricot doubloons.
I carpet the driveway deep with curing potatoes
And bulge burlap bags with carrots and onions.
Troves of red and gold apples not sauced or sliced
Dehydrate to precious chips of ivory
Or are buried in chests secure against frost.
I add up my columns of banked sunshine on deposit
And inventory diamonds crowded into the freezer.
Envy me, Aladdin, my treasure!
I sold all I had to obtain these full coffers.
And now I need winter
Lest a sudden audit catch me
With mind, heart, and soul
Empty.

[photo] Photography by Kevin Merrell