Ode to the Plural Marriage of My Mother, Nan Page, Merry Wife, in Five Acts

First, my father with his guitar and mellow tenor like a campfire,
after a septennial of babies, bulimia, depression that clung
like woodsmoke. Then,

my half-brothers’ father, a black man, with his soulsong
and the way he could split you with laughter, slit your arm as he
dragged you by the leg and a stray nail bit. You ran to Canada, forced

migration. Third, your first cousin, his eight kids, your five, a mess
of shit on the floor where the youngest squalled in a leaky diaper
while you made dressing from blue-veined cheese at his greasy spoon

down the street rumbled Fourth with his tinder heart and Harley,
who offered escape from a dank basement apartment by Logan River,
bought a house with a garden for your lavender, promised to care for

you grew weary of his conspiracy theories, he of your clematis vines,
and you’d met Fifth, a woman from work, where you taught kids to scroll,
to click, and she fixed any broken thing with a joke. She got you

back to church, to the temple, and looked awkward in a dress,
served a Mormon mission in England where she’d fasted for a month
to be healed, and when her queerness didn’t disappear, she’d planned

her suicide, the mattress that would soak her blood, roll up like a crude
coffin they could just shove in a dumpster, but then you saved her and she
saved you in mutual apostasy, although you couldn’t marry

for 14 years, until, at the end of a long December (finale) you could.

Dayna Patterson is a consulting editor for Bellingham Review, poetry editor for Exponent II Magazine, and founding editor-in-chief of Psaltery & Lyre. She is a co-editor of Dove Song: Heavenly Mother in Mormon Poetry (Peculiar Pages Press 2018). Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in AGNI, The American Journal of Poetry, Hotel Amerika, Sugar House Review, Zone 3, and others. www.daynapatterson.com

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