“Tap Roots,” Ensign, Sept. 1988, 7
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.