“Jacob Smith of Somerset,” Ensign, Jan. 1977, 53
From dust they came, to dust they went,
And among the flecks of dust I hunt for them.
It’s only from a distance that they look the same—
They have more variety than snowflakes,
Although like six-pointed crystals they wear vital statistics
In perfect order across the papers and the books.
Among all the Jacob Smiths of Somerset
Is one whose wife was Elizabeth,
Whose trade was tanning, whose sons
All went to America, who was born
Around 1599, who died who-knows-when.
But I must know when, and when he married,
Where he was born, where he is buried,
So that when all the dust is winnowed at the end
He can hear his known and unknown names
See how the dust rises in the shaft of sunlight
From my afternoon window. The light and the dust
Fall imperceptibly on my hands
And hold them to the book, to the page, to the pen.