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Mountain Meadows

The walls of the chapel

Bear no cross

By the pews

In blue bonnets

The saints walk

Scattered in different families

Seventeen children join the lines

In Utah Territory

It is the year of our Lord


Learn you well

About Brigham Young

And the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith

These young ones are raised in faith


And in discipline

Some are raised in love

After two years

They have become the community’s own

But upon plains and meadows

And sometimes in chapel

Fathers still avoid looking the older children in the eye

And the whispers of their mothers by woodfire

Carry through the night.

These seventeen

Know they don’t belong

Although some of them have forgotten to care

They dream now of low grasses and of red rocks

In place of the lush greens of the Ozarks

They dream now of valleys and hills

Instead of rivers and deltas

They pray with their families

They play with their toys and their friends.


They remember

Their fathers and mothers



And temperaments


A whole wagon train of



And cousins

Bosses and hands


The steady sight of white canvas

An arch

Over their heads

In sun



And in snow

They remember the neighing of the horses

And the familiar stink of the cattle

They remember

Father’s rough hands

And mother’s smooth cross

The one that hung from her neck

The one that has been gone.




Running feet

The glint of the sun

On the edge of a bow knife


Skin loose

White men dressed as Paiutes

Faces frozen

Others utterly scared

The men

Women and children

Separated from each other

Led to march in different directions

A white flag

Their mother’s scalp


On the ground.

Those who remember

They remember it in their nightmares

Or when they stare off too long into the horizon

Or when they watch the wind blow through the grass

Or when everything goes quiet

Or when the priest speaks of Hell.

Those who remember

They keep the time

In the trunks of trees

The walls of houses

In patterns they knit

In the pages of scripture

It has been

Almost two years.

Those who remember

In different ways

They know

It wasn’t all that far from where they live now.

The bodies of those they loved

Were left to rot in an open field

As the seventeen children were taken away

And left to live with other fathers

Other mothers

And other siblings.

Some other fathers still had blood soaked into their sleeves

When they brought the children into their homes.

In 1859

Other fathers are crying

Other mothers are angry

Other siblings are unsure of what is happening

A man named Jacob Forney has come

To take the seventeen back to Arkansas.

They quickly leave

In wagons and on trains the seventeen children ride

Some things

Across the country

And in the land of their ancestors

Are familiar sights

For some




And Johnson

Are home sweet home

But some of those children will always live in Utah

And some of them will never leave

Mountain Meadows.

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