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