This poem was submitted by Kate Jensen. She shares what inspired her to write the poem.
“We Announce the Martyrdom…” was inspired by Geoffrey Brock’s “Flesh of John Brown’s Flesh: Dec. 2, 1859”, written from John Brown Jr.’s point of view. I was interested Brock’s representation of this son’s complex feelings towards his father. In response to this poem, I composed my own; instead of exploring the Prophet’s children’s feelings surrounding his death, I decided to focus on Emma’s reaction.
On a personal note, I enjoyed researching the history of Joseph’s faith and sacrifice and Emma’s role as an influential, yet often overlooked founder of our faith. Lucy Mack Smith said of her: “I have never seen a woman in my life who would endure every species of fatigue and hardship, from month to month, and from year to year, with that unflinching courage, zeal and patience, which she has ever done.” Emma was a pregnant widow when Joseph was killed, staying on in Nauvoo to care for their children and the prophet’s feeble mother. Let us continue to remember her as her family did; she was truly an elect lady.
The poem follows.
“We Announce the Martyrdom of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and Hyrum Smith the Patriarch”: Carthage Jail, 27th June 1844
Men charged the stairs,
their faces black.
Did they hear Brother Taylor’s singing stop?
But Joseph knew
and like a lamb, he went
as independently, this work rolled on without him
mobs, armies, calumny
The Patriarch fell, then the Prophet:
(their blood still stains the floor)
never divided, never separated.
Their legacy of faith, we live
ingrained in us, the children of the covenant.
But what of you, Sister Emma?
To Joseph’s heart, yours—
Held fast through New York,
Missouri and Illinois.
Six tiny graves you left behind
while Zion’s monuments were built and razed,
consumed by the cause.
Crossing the frozen Mississippi
with his manuscript sewn into your skirt,
his children clung to you.
Your love lost,
your sickened soul lingered behind the flow of the faithful—
the Prophet’s widow, witnessing his people’s exodus—
What of your vision?
Your suffering and sacrifice?
How far need endless enduring go?