by Scott Porter
The snow weighed down branches
of early autumn red, caught flower
out of season, nested
on the black of mother’s dress.
The snow weighed down branches
of early autumn red, caught flower
out of season, nested
on the black of mother’s dress.
We would roll like spiders
in the dust of our skin
then watch Dan Rather or Cheers,
or just stare at a lovelier past
which, too close,
disappeared into dots—
much as choosing to hold you
as we fell into slumber
meant waking trapped, sticky,
in the crack between mattresses,
twenty minutes to nine,
spotted with dirt, and unborn.
In Florida we eat lightning,
sitting inside our screened-in patio
the white framing black with dust and mosquitos.
We wait for static to rifle through the air
mouths open, tongue licking for a shock
to remind us all that we are still there:
iiiiiiiiiiiiiJulie in the cracked white wicker chair
iiiiiiiiiiiiichair wearing grandma’s Santa Claus blanket
iiiiiiiiiiiiilike a shawl, Tyler pressed in the back corner
iiiiiiiiiiiiihoping to Jesus we all don’t burn like the lemon tree,
iiiiiiiiiiiiimom watching through the window too afraid
iiiiiiiiiiiiiof the way a storm shouts but never whispers,
iiiiiiiiiiiiiand dad squeezing my shoulder to keep me
iiiiiiiiiiiiifrom leaning too fair out and busting through
iiiiiiiiiiiiithose flimsy screens.
Dad sighs slow about the grandeur and mysteries of God,
What a show he puts on for his children. Maybe
we should say a prayer of gratefulness. But I don’t have time
to pray. I am waiting for a strike to hit the basketball hoop
because the only thing that will lay me down
to peace at night is the fresh scent of fried ozone. And lord,
how well I sleep.
Is this tree a god
And plucked a
leaf And tore a
Is this tree a God
iiiIts body in her hands
No halos here, only stale rings of smoke diffusing
above greasy hair, chaperoned by pungy odors.
Your hazel eyes two pools of quiet amidst this canopy
of painted faces, jungle of moon-like earrings,
miles of cleavage spilling from chests clutching
cans of fruity memory thieves. Notes float
towards the midnight ceiling, exploding flecks
of drum beats like gun shots dancing in my ears.
Bodies stampede. They move into one another
as rubber bands snapping, stretching sweaty limbs
into whip-like lips. A stranger locks my virgin
eyes into an embrace, moans something about a “safeword,”
while sliding into the woman next to her. I am naked,
clothed only by naivety and a checkered flannel
too warm in all this heat. A splash of your smile spills
onto my cheap sneakers. Spotlight shifts from the grinding
wails of the music to cotton t-shirt and quiet waves. I
trade the lilting bass for your heartbeat, platinum hoops
for ivory hug draped around my shoulders.
You pull fear to the side, teach it to sway to a new
melody, dance to the thump thump of young blood running
through flesh-like ribbons.
It’s true, there are no halos here, only
stagnant trinkets and chilly beer and the hazel foundations
of a new home. Memory regained, I swear that when these brown
eyes blinked, they felt your arms turn angel wings.
by Dylan Robinson
My sister and I, who boarded as cargo.
With nothing, we made
The promise to be good.
But I recall an unchained Abed leaping into the ocean
And how they forced the able-bodied men into a small lightless room
Where a few holes let air in.
For hours they fought and gasped and fought
And while others died, I lay beside the widest hole
And covered it with my mouth, so that none saw.
And one of the younger boys grabbed me and pulled
And I let him pull,
And remained while he stilled.
And when the door opened three of twenty remained.
And they took us to the top deck,
Put us back to work.
When my sister would look at me
I would clap my hands over my head and cry.
Jesus and Mary: The Moment After by Trevor Southey
Mary, was there a hint of the breath ready to enter his Hermionean
lips as they moved his clay back to the tomb? His eyes catching
yours. The hollow look, your babe before he inhales again.
Life, deadless, lifeful, death read it right to left, watch as he
sucks vinegar, feel those lips pulling at you, hear the veil
strip itself of the temple and cleft this moment in your heart.
Pray, he raises the fetal corpse, extend the rose to each
turned cheek to give the soul it’s matter once more
forgive Him His ambiguous condescension.
Forgive me my Pagan love. I can no longer
criticize the Romans, as I bring my sacraments
to their unknown God with stronger doubts.
Navel to navel, we swirl Samsara around this lotus
and always to the right the maiden of God splits
herself asunder and we consume around that fetal locus.
I wonder there if she wept the wine turned back
to water, turned back to blood. If that endless blood
flowed back to him when I stopped drinking.
Forgive him his ambiguous condescension.
The one who burns the Gods of his ancestors,
generously inhales their sacrificial secular smoke.
Pin him to his own tree by the base of his skull,
root me to the floor, gentle gaze of lifeful death,
drive me through the nape, dream me Yggdrasill.
Sacrifice my right hand for the sake of sin
or whatever else it’s worth. Take what you will.
I die daily and still I am disingenuous.
Try connecting the dots
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalike the ancients–
each lonelyaaaaaaastaraaaaaaaaaaaborn into an image,
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaathis one the image of God.
Watch their black gulf reveal
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaathe flirting vastness of it all,
as if the distancesaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaadraw them together.
Remember, too, the continents scattered over our mantelpiece
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalike the lost pieces of our jig-saw puzzle.
How does it fit such that
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaeven the school children
in their scuffed-up-hand-me-,-down sneakers on the blacktops
see what others miss?-aaaaaaaaa aaThis bigger picture,
these free-handedaaaaaaaaaaaa aaachalk lines
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasketched between objects.
Who else knows
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawhat dense matter knows?
how the spaceaaaabetweenaaa aaaaatoms
matters densely–aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaathis space
In the year’s final
breath we ate lemon
on the stoop of your porch
I’ve tried to sing, “Heavenly Mother, are you really there? And do you hear and answer every child’s prayer?” but I always get stuck on that intangible word—prayer. Afterall, Gordon B. Hinckley said we shouldn’t pray to our Mother in Heaven, and I wonder what praying to her would look like. Is reaching out with my heart too prayer-like? If it is, how, then, do I honor her?
By honoring womanhood, I think some would answer.
What does that mean? I would respond. What does that look like? Getting married and having kids? Dressing feminine?
Perhaps I should describe the beginning of my obsession or desperation for and with Heavenly Mother and womanhood. Back before my older brother, with glasses pushed up his nose, uncomfortable expression twitching on his face, said I couldn’t use the word “frick”— which I learned from him—because girls don’t talk like that. Before I asked my dad what the purpose of women would be if we couldn’t have children, and he responded, “There wouldn’t be one,” as he fired up the computer, so nonchalant, so every-day-is-this-way attitude. Before my mom suggested, tentatively, kindly, with an ear to my heart, that perhaps, maybe, possibly, my depression started with that disease irresistibly Mormon: lack of husband and children.
But now that I think about it, now that I’ve listed it out, I can’t really find a beginning. Maybe my musings on feminine deity kickstarted after I served my mission in Florida where the words of a woman with five children from five different men—none of whom stuck around—clung to my mind like humidity and sweat clung to my body. She raised her five babies with her mother, and what did she know of her own father? Not much. He didn’t stick around—she knew that.
I hit a—what to call it?—breaking point? No, breakthrough, in college. We read “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and my American Literature professor, complete with glasses and button-up blue shirt, described how John treats his wife like a baby, but becomes a baby in the end. Words like “hypocrisy,” “feminism,” and “double-edge sword” rooted to the tip of my tongue. Finally, I could attempt to describe the culture- machine, grounded in patriarchal traditions and (perhaps) misguided, gendered belief systems that spun out phrases like “girls can’t” and “women should.” But why, why, in my very own belief system did we and do we praise and love a Father in Heaven but rarely discuss his wife?
Some will say there’s no material referencing Her, and some will say we don’t talk about Her out of respect. Both are wrong.
Granted, there’s more material directly related to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ than to Heavenly Mother. But one of the best overviews of our understanding of Her is “‘A Mother There’: A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven” by David L. Paulsen and Martin Pulido. I found this article after a friend recommended I read Mother’s Milk, a book of poetry about Heavenly Mother, and after scouring Churchof JesusChrist.org for any sign of why my own family and my local church rarely, if ever, discussed our Mother in Heaven. “‘A Mother There,’” offered free of charge by Churchof JesusChrist.org because Gospel Topics references it twice, proves Heavenly Mother can and should be discussed. Paulsen and Pulido gathered “important historical accounts that cast serious doubt on the specific claims that, first, a sacred silence has always surrounded this treasured Mormon doctrine [Heavenly Mother] and that, second Heavenly Mother’s ascribed roles have been marginalized or trivialized” (75). Their research shares accounts from apostles, prophets, and other Church leaders who describe Mother in Heaven “as a procreator and parent, as a divine person, as co-creator of worlds, as coframer of the plan of salvation with the Father, and as a concerned and loving parent” (76).
Is it unfairly sexist of me to say I’m disappointed the authors of “‘A Mother There’” and most (but not all!) of the sources they cite to discuss the Goddess are men? Why do men have the market on defining The Woman? Even the sources members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints mostly trust are, by default, men, namely prophets and apostles. My questions in and of themselves are ironic. Afterall, the word woman comes from wife + man. Inherent in the word females (a word derived from, you guessed it, male) use to describe themselves is the male, not so for man, which has Germanic roots to mean “human being” or “adult male human being.”
I’m not talking about males and females in order to demand women get ordained to the priesthood. I’m not even attempting to make men feel guilty.
I just want to know my Mama.
I want to dissuade the misunderstandings that surround her. I want my sister, who, during a Come Follow Me hosted by my parents, emphatically said, “No, no, we think of Her as so sacred. We respect Her. Heavenly Father respects Her so much we don’t talk about her,” to know she can talk about Mother. I want my brother, the same one who cautioned me against using “frick” and who agreed with my sister, saying his institute teacher told him Heavenly Mother was too sacred to talk about (so it must be true), to know he can love and respect our Mother as much as our Father. He can teach his month-old daughter to love and respect herself and know one day she will be a goddess, a co- creator, a co-framer, a woman defined by whatever can possibly define God.
I am trying to respect Heavenly Mother, and I don’t know how to do that without knowing her. I try to understand Her by studying the imperfect accounts we have of her, but I do struggle to imagine what she’ll look like when I stand before Her on Judgement Day or the Second Coming or whenever the all-will-be-revealed day is, and honestly, I don’t want to. I want to step over the trap of creating the Goddess in my image and instead leap into Her arms, but the more I look outside of myself, the more statuesque she becomes: sculpted, frozen, a Greek Goddess created by man.
I do see her in my mother, who plays with tiring grandchildren. Fixes my dad something to eat. Advises my oldest sister on how to raise teenagers. Places a hand on my brother’s shoulder, asking about dates. Takes her own mother to the store or the doctors or a restaurant. And still strokes my face and asks about my day.
Because of my mother and because, when I try to undefine wo-man and am left with only wo, only woe, I selfishly, sexist-ly, hope when Mother does fully reveal herself, she comes to Her daughters first.
“Female.” The Oxford English Dictionary: The definitive record of the English language. 2019. OED Online. https://www-oed-com.erl.lib.byu.edu/view/ Entry/69157?redirectedFrom=female#eid. Accessed 22 Oct 2019.
Hinckley, Gordon B. “Daughters of God” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Oct. 1991, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general- conference/1991/10/daughters-of-god?lang=eng. Accessed 22 Oct. 2019.
“Man.” The Oxford English Dictionary: The definitive record of the English language. 2019. OED Online. https://www-oed-com.erl.lib.byu.edu/view/ Entry/69157?redirectedFrom=female#eid. Accessed 22 Oct 2019.
Paulsen, David L. and Martin Pulido. “‘A Mother There’: A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven.” BYU Studies, vol. 50, no. 1, 2011, https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/mother-there-survey-historical- teachings-about-mother-heaven. Accessed 22 Oct. 2019
“Woman.” The Oxford English Dictionary: The definitive record of the English language. 2019. OED Online. https://www-oed-com.erl.lib.byu.edu/view/ Entry/69157?redirectedFrom=female#eid. Accessed 22 Oct 2019.