Marden J. Clark (Ph.D., University of Washington) is Emeritus Professor of English at Brigham Young University. His books include Moods: Of Late (poems), Morgan Triumphs (short stories), and Liberating Form: Mormon Essays on Religion and Literature.
The Other Valley
I still see him standing there
Eyes and head stretching motionless up
Beyond those gray cliffs that form the U
Of Devils Gate, fiendish exit from our valley
Standing there stretching for heaven,
Across the boundary line between
Our Morgan Valley and The Other Valley,
My father's name for all the valley of
The Great Salt Lake.
He was old
Always old to my eyes that stretched
Up as he looked down smiling to me,
Third son of first son with plural wife Annie.
He fathered my father in her parents' parlor,
Their only bedroom, in deep secrecy:
"Not even the nearest neighbors…knew."
What could he have been seeing up there?
A higher boundary?
Or just a boundary situation?
He lived between two farms and two wives:
Morgan and Annie, Georgetown and Emma
Mountains and miles apart. He lived
Between two worlds: rich or rocky bottomlands
And whatever that world he saw and sought
Up there. Along the hard gravel road
He walked to bridge both pairs of worlds.
He taught, when time and place converged,
And could as teacher have become a legend,
Instead of as forgetful farmer and father
Who forgot his farm, forgot his pony,
Even forgot and left his Emma in Montpelier.
"Didn't you take her with you?" "By jolly,
That's right." Had to drive team and buggy
Ten miles back from Georgetown to get her.
Perhaps the teaching bridged the worlds
For him as knowing that he taught—oh yes,
And forgot—bridged at last the worlds,
Those early worlds, between him and me.
If ever he forgot about or needed bridge
To whatever he was seeing up there,
We'd never know. When we interrupted him,
"By jolly, that is beautiful," was all he said.
We picked him up and drove on down
The canyon, up over the sand hill, past
His early home in Farmington and on
To Salt Lake City, heart of Zion
And The Other Valley, of his
Body religious that sent arteries
Tenuous but tough across boundaries out
To Morgan and Bear Lake, out to hundreds
Of such settlements to hold them together
As he had never quite been able to hold
His two families. Years later he died there,
And now such boundaries no longer matter.
We buried him deep in The Other Valley.