Tap Roots

    “Tap Roots,” Ensign, Sept. 1988, 7

    Tap Roots


    I, Malissa Kaziah Rollins Lee, was born in a wagon box

    under a sycamore tree

    somewhere beyond the Cajon Pass and the furrowed trails

    that led to Caliente Town. A billion stars reach

    out to shine upon the sagebrush silence of a heritage.


    I, Lissie Lee of four, dance in patent leather shoes

    while gold and silver coins are flipped upon a well-

    worn floor. I sparkle as I wrap the silken goods

    about my waist and wait for our Spanish friends to cheer.

    I, Lady Lee, now with summers adding to seventeen

    am decked in my white and blue silk tulle as I become

    a radiant bride and I am moved to unfamiliar trails.

    I learn to card and spin and weave the yarn and bake

    a cake with forty whites.

    I, Malissa Lee, am caught in heritage that rides the miles

    through treacherous hills carrying broken dreams

    and whispers of regret.


    I remember Nancy Lee, child of light, lying in a shallow

    grave in the southwest corner of our lot. And I

    remember Jimmie, silent on the ice with a hay fork

    caught in his side. And then my dear and precious

    Peter with sickness of the brain from a fall upon

    a hearth—only five remain to follow my shadow.

    Now I shake the dust of time and marvel at my ninety snows.


    I, Malissa Kaziah Rollins Lee, bend toward the mother

    tree and join the tap roots of my sycamore as I feel

    the slow and throbbing heart sound in my trunk.

    I hear my own name summoned in the wind voice

    of the night and pass my history

    to the tender roots I leave behind.

    Photography by John Snyder