“Still Mormon” and “Articles of New Faith”



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Still Mormon

by Dayna Patterson



I’m Mormon the way stars—rubbed out at noon,

robbed by sun—still burn



The way a geode empty of its quartz

is still stone



The way a whisper is still a breath

carved by tongue and teeth



I’m Mormon the way a cathedral is still a cathedral, even after

iconoclasts shatter the windows, decapitate the saints,



blunt their hands, topple their trunks from tiered niches,

tear them from cubbies, pillars, plinths,

a restoration of plain glass letting in

bolts of austere grey silk-light



I’m Mormon the way a Greek Orthodox is primarily Greek

and less orthodox,

my own icons gathered under sky-blue domes—



Madonna of Sagebrush, her foot crushing crickets,

seagull perched on her shoulder,

Liahona in her left hand, sego lily in her right,

beneath her image a red desert

where all may light a beeswax candle to illuminate her

honied look, beneficent smile



The way you can take the girl out of Utah but can’t take Utah

out of the girl, the way my hair and skin settle into dry

heat and Cache Valley smog, my shoulders Wellsville peaks,

my paunch and thighs Wasatch foothills, my veins mapping

Bear River on right and Logan River on left, all their tributaries,



lakes, marshes, canals, brooks, streams, ditches, rills



I’m Mormon the way a swimmer caught in riptide and carried out

makes peace with blue death but wears a thin suit

of hope that her body will be transmuted into



something lovely and holy: sea star, anemone, tiger shark,

more than watermark left to fade on the page, more than a name

writ in water



I’m Mormon the way the deeply drowned tree

ghosting beneath the boat is still tree



The way a sugar maple tapped of its sweetness

stretches its leaves to hold the sun



How the choir keeps singing after the beautiful

organ fails, wind moving through brass pipes

not making a sound, and the singers robed in velvet

continue a capella,

emerald voices floating luminous like curls of prayer-smoke



How the valley dweller watches her mountains glow,

giants jeweled on a wildfire night, how she grows as close as she dares

to damage, to catastrophe, wills the chopper pilot safe journey

from lake to lick of flame



How the valley dweller remembers the green hill

hid in an April shroud



Like the peahen in the empresses’ menagerie

among the glossy, iridescent eyes



Like a kangaroo among the beauty



I’m still Mormon the way a zoo’s golden eagle

worries clipped wings, and also the way a rewilded wolf

tastes captivity in her one chipped tooth



I’m Mormon the way skunk-smell lingers,

long after the boys lure it into the girls’ cabin,

slam a wire cage over its surprise, its vicious



hiss-and-spray, the way the stinkcloud

clings to hair, to skin, to grandmother’s yellow patchwork

quilt the girl should’ve left home but brought for comfort

and how could she know boys could be so mean



I’m Mormon the way ham hock soup is still pork knuckle

is still pig, after slaughterhouse, after blood drains

and butcher’s cut through bone, chopping shank



from leg, metatarsal from tibia, boiling down gristle

and skin to soften the meat and beans



I’m still Mormon the way scars glisten, or angiomas

cauterized from left temple

resurface elsewhere like beads of blood



As the beauty berry tree purples her fruit

in the dusky bloom of autumn night



As the peach tree drops its one swelling

to the ground



I’m Mormon the way a Baroque theater house

combusts in its special effects, gilded ceiling

giving way to open sky and an audience of rain



I’m still Mormon the way an astronaut

watches from the cupola’s seven windows

as sun-slit lifts the dark from earth’s contours



The way a tethered astronaut turns to face the deep

black of space while loving the sun

on her back, the tug of her umbilical



I’m Mormon the way a student graduates in debt

to her alma mater, school of the slowest clock and endless

scripture chase, school of humdrum,



hymn-hum in braided harmony, school of Wonder

Bread, passed hand to hand in chapel hush,

the paper thimbles’ drop a soft percussion



I’m still Mormon the way a poem is a room

and refuses the period’s lock



Still Mormon the way paper gives itself over to

blade and page and pen,

but remembers what it was like to have roots, thick

woody skin, lenticels, xylem,

loved by sunlight in a copse of its kin


Articles of New Faith

by Heather Holland



A novice—raging away

from the charred and blistered

home of my former faith—

I am called

by the air in my lungs

and the dirt beneath my feet

to stand and to breathe, to begin

this messy reckoning.



I believe in Being,

the eternal light and dark,

male and female, father, mother,

One Word of universe

that sits on my shoulder as sun,

tangles in my hair as wind.



I believe in Eve,

the snake,

and the fruit,

the wide-mouthed bite

of knowledge, the juice

of its bittersweet slide

down the neck,

between the breasts.

I trust the power

of the choice to leave

the leafy green and flower

of a garden, to grow

and multiply between

the rocks and brambles,

roots tangling

through brackish soil.



I believe sometimes

it is our sins

that save us.



I believe that the first principles

and covenants of my life are:

first, compassion, the sacrament

of holding the shaking hands

and hearts of those who suffer;

second, the courage of integrity—

keeping a steady heading,

mending each breach

as my ship sails dark waters;

third, gratitude, kissing the cheeks

of the ones I love and singing praise

for pink streaks of sky, shouting

hallelujah each month we have enough

to pay rent, buy food, and see a movie;

fourth, interconnectedness, a faith

that finds divinity in every far-flung star,

in every cell of my own body,

that looks at division and dogma

and graffitis over all of it with fury,

with love.



I believe that righteousness

and faith

are inside jobs,

that we are all prophetic people

spinning visions, all fumbling

co-creators of heaven,

all accidental authors

of such beautiful pain.



I believe in the church

of poets, healers, teachers,

prophets, charlatans, and so forth,

in Leonard Cohen and Don Williams,

Janis Joplin and Stevie Nicks,

the poets of the eight-track tapes

in my dad’s blue Chevy truck,

in the woman who healed me

when she whispered no matter

what church you belong to,

you always belong with me.



I believe in the gift of giving voice,

of listening, analysis, discernment,

of shining light into the darkness,

believing, doubting, making new,

the building of bridges, and so forth.



I believe in the scripture of loss.

I believe in sorrow’s hollowing,

the way it makes room for joy.



I believe in revelation, hope—the upturned tips

of a red-tailed hawk’s wings

as it wheels above cliffs and lakes,

in the call of Oliver’s wild geese,

the yellow crown of Dickinson’s bobolink

as he burbles his sharp song

through blossomed orchards,

in the black-capped chickadee

that sang outside my window

three springs in a row,

its two-note drop of a song

reminding me—

keep on, keep on, keep on.



I believe in the Zion of the Colorado Plateau,

in the glide of my hand along the chain

that makes safe the narrow path to Angel’s Landing

that rises high, makes clear the view of green valley

cut by a river between great cliffs of white

temple cap and red Navajo sandstone.

I believe in the gathering of those

who walk trails and love the earth.



I claim the privilege of worshipping,

believing, loving all I see as God, Divine.

I trust the dictates of my conscience

which have called me not to sin nor doubt

nor laziness, but call me daily to do more,

to believe more, to fight for faith in something

grander, kinder, stronger, gentler,

to imagine more than I’d once dared.



I believe in being subject

to truth, goodness, leadership,

equality, and compassion—

wherever they are found—

in obeying, honoring, sustaining,

questioning, protesting,

and changing the law.



I believe in being honest, true,

chaste, benevolent, virtuous,

and in doing all the good I can

for all the people I can.

I believe and what I believe is expanding;

I hope and hope is a battle chant;

I endure and I’m done with surprise

in the face of disappointment;

I fight; I stumble; I sing.

I seek sunset and blue bonnets,

cinders and stone—all things lovely,

or of good report, or praiseworthy—

with my own, unfiltered eyes. I seek

and keep seeking.

One comment

  1. Kevin K Rex says:

    What spiritual beauty in both poems. What expressions of my own Mormon-ness, and what nearness to my own beliefs of the real and spiritual world outside of orthodox Mormon. Oh my, I realize I just gave Satan two “wins” in these sentences. Darnitall. Thank you, dear siblings, for sharing your poetry with me.

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