Sunday Poem

In language as vivid and violent as the prairie sunlight, Ann Turner’s poems reveal the intensity of the pioneer experience. No one who reads these lines . . . can be unmoved by the lives of the women who undertook this extraordinary journey across a continent.

Amanda Hayes

I carried it all
the way west under
the wagon seat,
black with one gold stripe,
the letters burned
into the cover.
Sometimes when I was frightened
I reached down and touched

John thought my mind
fixed on clothing,
washing, the children one day
to come (oh, not too soon).

He did not know
of reading by moonlight,
dreams of sweet lands,
horses, ricks, green hills,
men with wine in shallow cups,
and women singing high, then
low, arms outstretched to me.

And I would dance naked
under the stars,
name of the god under my
tongue like a wafer,
my hair black as sky;

and the god would come
and take me by the hand,
lead me to the mountainside,
where he would plunge
into me so deep
I cried his name
sprung from under the tongue.

John doesn’t know
I know. He’s never touched
me that way. No one has.
But I know it in my body
the way a horse smells water
on the wind.
If I see it, I’ll take it.
If I find it, I’ll follow it.
And in one sweet leap
I’ll leave the shuffled
wagon trail, the dirt and flies
and leathered touch
of untaught hands
for crushed pine
under my back,
my eye falling
into the stars.

by Ann Turner
Grass Songs; Poems of Women’s Journey West
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993