By Marita Dachsel:



I was 17, newly married
when I first put a woman to bed,
her new babe in arms.

Awaiting death, I’ve tallied,
attended 3977 births. Midwife,
my eminent title.

Pride is a sin,
but I think I will be forgiven
for the surge I feel
when I consider my record.


47 did not feel old,
but looked ancient to him.
A month after my daughter,
me. Sexless, righteous.
Virtuous. Finished.


I became a Mother in Israel,
coaxing young women
into the new covenant.

We were Sarah & Hagar. Rachel & Leah.

But I was wrong about polygamy.

Lust, envy & wrath are sins,
& I know I will never be forgiven
for being the zealous handmaiden
to this difficult life.


I have lost four children. Heartache
is my chronic companion,
chafing the every day.

But my dear husband David
took a second wife
& I will tell you
what the others won’t admit:

There is no other earthly pain,
constant, raw & rending,
like sharing your man
with a younger wife.


I am a practical woman:
I can heal with herbs & my hands,
I brew my own beer, sew, knit,
& speak in tongues.

After birth, I would show
the mother the slick placenta,
raised up, a stretched orb.
An offering.

It carries the tree of life.
Rough, ropey. Red,
the colour of strawberry jam
boiling low on the stove.


Being the first hand
to touch a life
is a powerful thing.

I have wondered
what imprint
I have left

& what has been
left on me.


The men, they surged
from their homes,
from their women,
a confluence
in search of
their Galilee.

They shuffled, they scuffed
dirt across the land,
a hand of a crone.

The men, they fished.
Eyes skimmed the shore
for a stranger they would know.
Hope bobbed in their throats.
Loss, a lure, caught
shredding what they once knew true.

The women, they were left
with the children,
the dead.
The scriptures gave no guide
for wives at a time like this.

Today’s poems are from Glossolalia, published by Anvil Press, copyright © 2013 by Marita Dachsel, and appear here today with permission from the poet.

GLOSSOLALIA is an unflinching exploration of sisterhood, motherhood, and sexuality as told in a series of poetic monologues spoken by the thirty-four polygamous wives of Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In Marita Dachsel’s second full-length collection, the self-avowed agnostic feminist uses mid-nineteenth century Mormon America as a microcosm for the universal emotions of love, jealousy, loneliness, pride, despair, and passion. Glossolalia is an extraordinary, often funny, and deeply human examination of what it means to be a wife and a woman through the lens of religion and history. (From the Anvil Press website.)

Marita Dachsel is the author of Glossolalia, Eliza Roxcy Snow, and All Things Said & Done. Her poetry has been shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry and the ReLit Prize and has appeared in many literary journals and anthologies. Her play Initiation Trilogy was produced by Electric Company Theatre, was featured at the 2012 Vancouver International Writers Fest, and was nominated for the Jessie Richardson Award for Outstanding New Script. She is the 2013/2014 Artist in Residence at UVic’s Centre for Studies in Religion and Society.

Editor’s Note: In this collection Marita Dachsel has taken on no small task. By seeking to reclaim women’s stories from the polygamous world of Joseph Smith, the poet gives voice to the voiceless, the unknown, the lost and forgotten. Their stories come to life, their lives become known history. In “Patty Bartlett Sessions,” polygamous wife Patty Bartlett converts other women to the Mormon faith, “coaxing young women / into the new covenant.” But when she realizes the insurmountable trials of polygamy, she knows she “will never be forgiven / for being the zealous handmaiden / to this difficult life.” Instead she finds inspiration and fulfillment in her work as a midwife, for “Being the first hand / to touch a life / is a powerful thing.” In “After the Marytrdom” Dachsel speaks for a chorus of wives left by husbands seeking a divine experience, noting ruefully that “The scriptures gave no guide / for wives at a time like this.”

Want to see more from Marita Dachsel?
All Things Said & Done – Marita Dachsel’s Official Blog
Canadian Poetries
The Rusty Toque
The Barnstormer
Youtube: Too True: The poetry of four acclaimed BC poets

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