Lone Woman: Charity (Arms) Everts

“Lone Woman: Charity (Arms) Everts,” Ensign, Mar. 1984, 56–57

Lone Woman: Charity (Arms) Everts

Eliza R. Snow Poetry Contest Winner Second Place

She must have been whip-thin to make that trek

Across the continent, her body taut

As wet rawhide, her courage ramrod stiff.

How else to leave those little graves behind,

Six of the ten she bore, one slashed to death

By peccaries, in shallow slits of earth,

That one long gash beneath a spreading oak

From one black, fatal day in Illinois

Before they reached Nauvoo to join the Saints.

The solemn workmen brought her Joshua,

Her life, her love, the husband half of her,

His body shattered by a falling tree,

To live but briefly, dying in her arms.

Through ashen, urgent lips he begged her go.

“Go with the Saints. Let nothing interfere.

To Zion, to The Kingdom—for our sakes.”

Alone, with little children, yet alone,

No man to lift the heavy oxen yoke,

To grease a squeaking wheel, to take her turn

Night-herding animals, to shift the load

Of heavy boxes in the wagon bed—

To take command, to comfort her in grief

When children slipped from life. To dig their graves.

Some things I know of her, her gentle birth

Of stern New England stock, no foe to work,

For she could wash and card and spin a fleece

And weave it into cloth. She knew the dyes

Of walnut, madder root and indigo.

Her even stitch became her livelihood.

I hope her feet were cased in cowhide boots,

Her body wrapped against the elements

For I am hers three mothers down. I yearn

To see her face and listen to her words.

She made of tragedy a martyr’s gift

To God, and blessings of adversity.

But more than all of these her spirit soared

Above the mud of Iowa, the endless plain,

The rivers she must ford, the mountain heights.

The clumsy, ox-drawn wagon, lit by faith

Became for her a chariot of fire.