by Constance Hansen

A wife must regard her husband with indifference, and with no other feeling than that of reverence,
for “love” we regard as a false sentiment: a feeling which should have no existence in polygamy.

Zina D. H. Young

My ancestress Zina        thrice married    
twice for Time                once for Eternity

Zina of Black River        battle drums                   
Watertown                       Fort Drum         

Zina of creaky latches    garden paths
cradling the cello & secret proposals          

Zina young                       giggling into prayer-shaped hands 
gathering eggs                  speckled & warm                        

Zina of cheekbones        cholera & motherloss                  
spindle & tithe                 the small circumference of your sash          

Zina blushing & beaded with brow sweat & work     
the snow gemmy at cockcrow
                                                                                                                      boot tracks

                                                                                   New York, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois
                                                                                   long days
                                                                                                              civilizing wool & the temperaments                  
                                                                                  scratched hands & the mournful fasting
                                                                                  gathering skirts                        blood-hemmed

Zina seven months pregnant
with Zebulon by Henry
when sealed for Eternity to one Joseph

Zina, great-great-great grandmother
of mine
                                    I called on you
                                    on hour four of pushing
                                    in consideration of your exiled labor                          
                                    on the banks of River Chariton                                                                              
                                    and you delivered                                                                                                           

Zina, you named my ancestor        
after that river and Henry                     the probable father
                                                                      your husband & lover
                                                                      before your prophet sent
                                                                      the saint-blessed
                                                                      cuckold on distant
                                                                      mission to get you alone                                      
                                                                      like a predator would

Zina of the temple choir & red brick store   
of the Nauvoo SNAFU
                                                                     your jailed fisher king                  
                                                                     shot dead by a hollering mob        

Zina, Brigham-seized
like property
                                    betrothed a Young
                                    before Spring could green Joe’s grave        

Zina, you must of have been beautiful—no, why
assume beauty has anything to do with desirability
or that desirability of the one over whom
power is taken has anything to do with why

Zina, bearer—
Zina, what you bore—


Zina, seer
of the sweetest deseret honey to be
of seagull miracles

Zina, soldier
of fervor of fever of vision
bent over planting crops for next season’s pilgrims
to eat and not perish on their way to this is the place

Zina, buttoner of little shoes
Zina of frozen mud with its wagon ruts on
of westward climbing           winter pass crossing

Zina of clover
of robed ritual
of midwifery on the high alpine snow                     
Zina, my blood from the low
                                                                     brackish lake
                                                                     salt crisp powdery
                                                                     salt piquant         cragged 

                                                                     heirloom scent of charred lamb fogging the canyon              
                                                                     heirloom militiamen & marauders  
                                                                     heirloom sins of settlers, such blood, theft of land
                                                                     held in common, children held in common, 
                                                                     but only you held a common of husbands, Zina
                                                                     my skin of silkworm Zion, of burning wax,
                                                                     of wax burns Zion, its feminization—Zina

                   O threader of grease drippings
                   my lady of sagebrush and maypoles,
                   lady serviceberry, they called you Sister Young—
                   Sister Young’s linens splattered
                   by her husband’s younger wives’ labors—

desert stars lassoed by your doorframe number less
than your faithless descendants

Lady’s Relief Society President of summer thunder, the raw sensual
smell of tomatoes lifting off the garden clear to the peach
slices drying on the roof                   the darkening charge before the rain, Zina

the animal              the mineral jolt              of ions after              the laws of desire

young men dolled up in high heeled boots    & handkerchiefs
brushing against the infinite softness of breasts        
swinging their partners across                              the percussive floor
young women finding new nerve endings wherever they are touched

Sister Young
did you watch them
bemusedly or with a mournful pity             
the kids who think          
it always feels like that         like heat        like want

Zina from Catskills to cattails
rustling against the fallen
temple wall of the buzzing hive

Queen Bee           thrice married
twice for Time          one time for Eternity

Zina the cord I’m candled around


Constance Hansen’s poetry and reviews have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Harvard Review, Four Way Review, Vallum, Southern Humanities Review, Northwest Review, River Mouth Review, Volume Poetry, EcoTheo Review, Moist Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. She is the Assistant Managing Editor of Poetry Northwest. Constance lives with her family in Seattle, where she teaches poetry at the Hugo House.

Image: Danny Burke