By Martha P. Morrise

Jacob: Firstborn in the Wilderness

My father placed his hands upon my head
To bless my childhood with a voice of hope.
His words sustained my fragile spirit-thread
Of understanding, wove a sturdy rope
Of faith to gird me through the growing years.
I bore my brothers’ rudeness and their slights,
For Nephi offered safety, calmed my fears,
And shared his strength through burdened days and nights.
A lonesome people, tribulation-born,
We wander in a hostile, barren land.
Our brethren war against us. Thus we mourn
Throughout our days in suffering by their hand.
And yet, we know our God in mercy reigns
And lights a path of love through all our pains.

For Emma

Mississippi ice.
The flux of her cumbersome skirt
corrugated in the grip of her children:
Joseph to one side,
Julia on the other.
Her arms midnight aching
from the weight of two more babes,
Frederick and Alexander hung in embrace.
Heavy bags of the Prophet’s papers
bound to her waist.
Her mind behind with him
shut in prison.
Home, cold-impacted Missouri,
left hollow by her flight
across the river’s frozen slate.
The careful tramp of her feet
scuffing the ice,
her name aching in my throat
every time it’s heard.


Stones worn smooth by timeless currents,
Nameless rocks in common streams,
Eroded grains of pebbled sameness
Weakly lit by shadowed gleams.
Time’s ethe stream to smooth our roughness,
Polish struggle, burnish pain,
Till ripple-washed, esteemed and glist’ning,
Sun-bright temple stones remain.


Piece by piece we add upon
Our scraps of
Blending threads of color
As the poet
The rhyme.
God has granted me the art
Of shaping each
New day,
Piecing, stitching, binding
Bits of time
In my
Own way.


Like the widow
who fed Elijah
with her last portion of meal
and went again
till famine’s end
to find her reserves
still fresh
I sense the echo
of an arid vessel
sin my own heart—
emptied by the ravages
of earthly existence,
by the unkindness
of circumstance
and agency,
broken, I look
for what I count (and fear) to be
one last portion of meal
only to find
like the widow of Zarephath
when I have given all,
He has filled my vessel
with yet another portion,
taking me step by step
in a path of gratitude
to His feet.

[photo] Photo by FPG International