爾 / Your
Sir Richard Francis Burton, The City of the Saints, 1861.
Your republic is a land of misnomers: “America”
not one nation but a continent, your “Indians”
no denizens of a mislocated East.
Even your transcontinental throws its yoke
not across one imagined country
but several. You cannot even claim
this territory of the Mormons, those bloody
hashshashayim as you would call them,
their Brigham Young a Shaykh-el-Jebel
planning to liberate another newborn Mecca.
Just as in Egypt, this Zion, too,
was plagued by locusts, its Asiatic fields
demolished of maize, the limpid waters so polluted
with carcasses, a thirsty mullah in this desert
would long for beer.
built a railroad to draw you closer
to the East; now you find the East
already within you. But such a disappointing
version of it! I look in vain for Mormon
out-house harems, and find nothing
but farmhouses in which the wives are stored
like any other stock or grain. Polygamy
is conducted with an air of business, the women
married not for sex but because servants
are more costly here. And yet it’s women
over which they would revolt,
these Mormons bedeviled by a government
that declares polygamy and slavery sister
institutions. Congress cannot attack one,
they say, without infringing on the other,
thus “Dixie” do some locals call this place,
their favorite toast, "We can rock
the cradle of Liberty without Uncle Sam
to help us!” Absolute
independence, absolute sovereignty
is their aim, this Deseret exclusive as Tibet
to their defensive faith. Your government fears
a war with China. But men out here all know
the war will come within. How can you subdue
what you do not truly know, how circumscribe
this globe without a clearer eye to truth?
These Mormons do not even celebrate
your “glorious” 4th, transferring those honors instead
to a later date that recalls their city's survival
from the locusts. On that day, I walked out
of Great Salt Lake to see its cemetery:
the one place both sinner and saint might reside
together in peace. There, I found a row
of women tending crosses, heads tucked
as they swept the stones, each one carved
with a gull wheeling in the marble.
Such pretty, powerless things! No hunters
like your famous eagle, though according
to local legend, it was the gulls that finally came,
and devoured all the locusts.