Tap Roots
September 1988

“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