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My Mother’s Hand

By: Ardis E. Parshall - September 13, 2011

My Mother’s Hand

By Ann Woodbury Hafen

Today I looked on a map of the West – my mother’s hand.
Flesh geography of the old frontier was there
In the strong blue veins that ridged the furrowed skin.
In the eddied knuckles, weathered nails, and gullied palm,
I saw how the raw West shaped a woman’s hand
As that hand shaped the West.

A picture map deep etched – this hand that worked a hoe,
That scythed alfalfa bribes for evening milk,
That carried ’dobes for the long-dreamed house,
That scrubbed out irrigation’s mud and sweat.
This steady hand that pressed the danger trigger,
Delivered newborn, needled shrouds, and washed the dead.

Through ninety beauty-hungry years,
Through four generations of weddings the small hand moved –
A self-willed dynamo that generated
Sixty stitches to a minute,
Twenty pieces to a quilt block pattern,
Forty blocks to a quilt
Of rainbow wedding rings to warm the matings.

In an Old World garden, this hand, velvet-white,
Secreted seeds in a young bride’s deepest pocket,
Guarded them from hunger’s blind devouring
Through six thousand hungry miles
And fed them at last to the black volcanic ash
Of the Rocky Mountains.

Out of a woman’s bended labor,
Watered by a widow’s tearful prayers,
Stirred by courage of a mother’s hand,
The sleeping land awoke to food and flowers.

Flesh geography of the West I touched today
In the seamed erosions of a weathered palm.
I saw the raw West shape a woman’s hand
And that hand shape the West.

(1943)



4 Comments »

  1. Love you, Ardis.

    Comment by Cynthia L. — September 13, 2011 @ 1:21 pm

  2. Woodbury Hafen?–if she’s not from St. George, I’ll memorize the poem!

    Comment by Mark B. — September 13, 2011 @ 2:13 pm

  3. So how good are you at memorizing, Mark B.? : )

    It looks like Mrs Hafen was born in Salt Lake, spent much of her life in Colorado and Provo, and died in Provo. Of course, she was raised in St George and got married there, so she would probably have identified herself as being from St George, so I guess you’re off the hook.

    But even if you weren’t, what an interesting poem it would be to memorize. I didn’t notice the author’s name until after I read the poem, but every bit of it said “St George” until I got to the line about the black volcanic ash and the Rocky Mountains (what was that about??). Of course, I’ve been immersed in early St George culture recently and spent some time talking to some very helpful women at the St George DUP earlier today, so that may have influenced my reading.

    Comment by Researcher — September 13, 2011 @ 3:02 pm

  4. Ann Woodbury Hafen was the wife and writing/editing partner of LeRoy R. Hafen. They edited Mormon Resistance: A Documentary History of the Utah War, 1857-1858. They also did Handcarts to Zion.

    Comment by CurtA — September 13, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

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