Home > Journal

Poet Rachel Hunt Steenblik

For the 2018 New York Mormon Arts Center Festival

Exhibition, “Handed Down and Altered”

In Book One, curated by J. Kirk Richards

When She’s Handed the Book

I.
When she’s handed the book,
she clutches it to her heart
and cries,
knowing deep in her
bones that the plates

buried deep in the

earth were passed from

fathers, to sons, to

brothers, to nephews, to

grandsons–never

mothers, to daughters, to
sisters, to nieces, to
granddaughters.

When she alters the book,
she writes of women’s

hands on women’s heads,
blessings before birth,
quilts that can catch you–

the deep part
of her heart
and cries.

Her fleshy tablet is tattooed with a fine scrawl

of unrepeating names for God:
Mommy, Daddy, Parents.
Her body is the veil, split open.
Her eyes are clear.

All day long she sacrifices these words
for those unburied on the earth,
mothers, daughters,

sisters, nieces,

granddaughters,

fathers, sons,

brothers, nephews,

grandsons.

She opens herself to the world

and claps her children’s bare hands.

II.
When she’s handed the book,
she hears voices
crying from the
dust–
prophetesses,
priestesses,
poetesses,
whispering,
“Write me, write me.”

III.
When she’s handed the book,
she falls to the earth

and thanks God. Her

prayers have been

answered, her

cries heard.

 

IV.
When she’s handed the book,
she walks slowly

up the mountain

and listens.

V.
When she’s handed the book,
she rests her fingers on the marks–

letters pressed

upon plates.
They are cool to

her touch.

VI.
When she’s handed the book,
she hands it back.
She carries libraries of

women’s words deep

in her bones.
She needs new plates to

write them down.

VII.
She is handed the book.

 

 

For the 2018 New York Mormon Arts Center Festival

Exhibition, “Handed Down and Altered”

At a Pulpit Book 7, Plate 21 and Little Blooms Book 7, Plate 23

by Rachel Hunt Steenblik

 

From Book 7, curated by Caitlin Connolly

I. Little Home

She is my little home
and I am her big.

II. She Carries the Book

Cora carries the book

with the story of her

birth and the

names of her

spiritual foremothers:

Claudia, Carol Lynn,
Judy, Linda,
Laurel, Susan,
Margaret, Janice,
Joanna, Lorie,
Chieko, Kate,
Janan, Gina,
Hannah, Heavenly
Mother, and me.

 

III. To Dress Her Body
i.
The last time I saw my granny, Billie, living, I was wearing her wedding dress she sewed herself, for my own wedding. I moved to Vienna a week later, and she passed away a week after I got back to the states. I flew to her state, and before I visited her empty home, my mom drove me to the funeral home to dress her body, empty of spirit. I don’t remember being afraid. I put on her slightly too small shoes on her slightly swollen feet and felt grateful.
ii.
One of the last times I saw my grandma, Zena living was at her home, that she once shared with me when I began my PhD program. My daughter played a set of drums in her garage. My son had just been born two months before. When my grandma passed, friends helped me fly to her state. Again, my mom drove me to the funeral home to care for a body that had cared for me. Again I put shoes on hard, statuesque feet. Then I held my grandma’s head in my hands and kissed her hair–the seeming most alive part of her and blessed her as Mormon women used to bless, and as some still do.

IV.
i. Boston, 2009. I stood at a pulpit and bore my testimony of the Divine Mother for the first time. It took all of my mustered courage. I shook for whole minutes afterward.

  1. Brooklyn, 2013. I wrote a single Heavenly Mother poem, then went to sleep and dreamed that I was at a pulpit reading five. I woke up to nurse my new babe and wrote them.

iii. Jersey City, 2018. My four-year-old daughter stood beside me at a pulpit where I gave a whole talk on mother lines. I weaved from my grandmothers, to my mother, to myself, before weaving to Christ who gathers us under his wings and then to Heavenly Mother. When I finished speaking, my daughter climbed on the stepstool and offered her own mini talk. She said, “My name is Cora. I believe Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father love us. Sometimes people are naughty to Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father, but they can apologize.” She did it easily and simply.

 

  1. Little Blooms

Little blooms, I’ll make you strong again.
Little not-good-at-the-alphabet blooms.
I’ll get you back to normal.
You are little.
Your name is Little Bloom.
You’re not strong.
You’re not big.
Your name is supposed to be
Little Strong Blooms.

– by Cora Steenblik, age 4

Leave a Comment