A poem by a former Mormon dealing with the actual 19th century Mormon practice of blood atonement. It is meant to show the fanticism of those who believed that certain sins are not covered by Christ’s death on the cross, but that the person must bleed to death for those sins, themselves, in order to obtain forgiveness. The setting is Utah Territory, somewhere in, or near around Salt Lake City.
The night is thick with moonlight, drunk with noise
Too soft to stir the sect of those asleep,
Too loud for creatures vigilant–or dead;
The booing of an owl reverberates
Inside the full moon, as the Elder’s foot-
Falls lag outside my cabin door. I hear
The rap of bone on wood, a summoning;
I rise–alone and unexcused I leave
A supper table spread with negligence,
The aftermath of twilight’s lingering meal.
Decidedly I slide the wooden bolt
Across the planks and open wide the door.
I glance and quickly look away from his
Warm Countenance; I look away as if
I’m viewing an eclipse; I look away,
My glance is quickened by ashamed resolve.
The Elder who but follows the man who
Communes with God extends his arm across
The open doorway; in his hand, for me,
A shovel. Following him through a dark
Gray meadow I, with measured breath, come to
A place I teach my hands and foot to dig.
Because the Elder’s moved by charity,
Because the only way to heaven is
By an atonement for my sins on earth,
Because it’s better to die than ask why,
Because the thinking is already done,
I lay face down, throat cut from ear to ear,
Inside a three-foot grave, beneath the sod.