1973
Earth Woman
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“Earth Woman,” Ensign, Mar. 1973, 24

Earth Woman

First Place Poem
Relief Society–Ensign Writing Contest

You were there on the summit of

a lush, green hill in Rhodes with

toothless smile, kerchiefed hair,

goatskin boots flapping in the dust,

bundling sticks on your donkey cart.

You were on the glistening, whitewashed

streets of Lindos, too—a scarf of white,

crinkled lines laced across your face

as intricately designed as the doilies

placed on tissue waiting for my dime.

I felt your mourning when I saw your

scarf of black. You were on your doorstoop

in Santorini spinning wool, haunted eyes

looking toward the sea that held your man.

Cradled in Bavarian Alps, scrubbing down

your cow, you burnished brown hide as

bright as the pail where milk would spill.

You were Anna the guide in Salzburg,

climbing steps each day, more than is in

the remembering of your eighty years—your

parchment skin stretched taut, your eyes blue as

mist and warm as lanterns on the cemetery hill.

You wore a long, black cape of wool in

Oberammergau, your eyes black, vivid as your

voice telling of an ancient plague and pledge.

On the road to Nazareth you were threshing

wheat, gathering sheaves, throwing them high

in the sun; your hair tied back, lips open

with fire and faith in growth of grain.

I saw you on my way to Rome. You were

working in the grapes, thick juice running

purple splotches down your skirt.

Woman of earth, you are everywhere.

You don’t know me, but I know you.

I have seen a thousand of your kind.

You have never seen my land but you were there.

I saw you long ago on hills and plains, trudging

with timeworn feet along the wagon trains.

You are the heart of the song, song of living,

holding tight to the branch, bearing down in pain.

Eve—Woman—Squaw

Whatever your name,

Receiver of seed, heart of the giving.

The savor, the salt of the earth,

Mother of living.

You were always there, face upturned in prayer.

  • Sister Cook is a teacher in the Ogden (Utah) 53rd Ward Relief Society and the mother of three children.