The following poem begins by evoking with powerful imagery the pioneer women we honor in July. Then it captures, with poignant details, a twentieth-century life of sacrifice and devotion no less heroic . . . certainly worthy of a Mother’s Day tribute. Finally, it celebrates an unusual college graduation.
The poem was written to the grandchildren of Vea Munk on the occasion of her Utah State University Commencement in June 1975.
Be lifted by poet Margaret Rampton Munk.
Wonder women in our eyes,
Those once-upon-a-time grandmothers,
Two and three and four times great —
Those petticoated pioneers
Who ground their treasures into powder
For the temple walls
And walked beside their men
On blistered feet through sagebrush
With their backs toward little graves,
Their faces toward a wilderness.
The grandmother who stands
Nearer you in time and space,
A living face
And presence in your early lives.
Left motherless at nine,
Transformed too soon into a woman
With a woman’s duties,
She lived to serve her family,
From her younger brothers’ childhood
Through her father’s last and hundredth year.
The dial and button
That now bake her bread
And warm her house
Were added only yesterday,
Welcome but unessential frills
For one who early learned
What was essential —
Milk and bread and bottled fruit;
Quilts to wrap the children
In the tiny, frigid bedroom;
Hands and back
On which the farm and all the rest depended.
Schooled six and one-half decades
In the broad curriculum of living,
She traveled every week
The snowdrifts would allow,
Fifty miles by winding mountain road,
To feed a learning hunger
In the classrooms where four brothers
And five sons and daughters
Had already sat before her
While her fingers rattled out tuition fees
Upon a lettered keyboard.
Beside the handcart and the dugout,
Reserve a place in memory and your homage
For June sun slanting
On red roses from a grandchild’s hand,
And on a flat, black square
Set modestly but firmly
On white hair.