Tag Archives: Sarah Dunster

The Trees in River Country by Sarah Dunster

Maple leaves on grass by Rosendahl

The trees in river country know the wind,
and how to bend  in winter blasts. They hold
snow and take the water. They change color—
as the leaves of maples turn, so too
a sister to her brother.

There are deep roots in a certain field, grown up
on our name past—fed by ashes of Cedar.
What wounds we’ve had will bear true grain,
but you and I will not be felled
by spade or tractor chain.


To read another LONNOL Month poem by Sarah Dunster, go here.

Spooky by Sarah Dunster

blue eye art

You watched her pass, the woman you
were with while you learned Poetry.
Black hair—she smiled with such grey eyes—
you watched  her pass without goodbyes,
and these hills blind me, golden; fierce
with bristling grass, smoking in the sun:
a cloud kicked up, an offering
to sanctify our suffering.

She lay down for a minute
to allow that one to come. Only
think, while holding him, a child
once held in warmth and now, exiled:
blue eyes, all. And hair like lightning.
That’s us, our full cheeks swelling,
full eyes dripping with questions still,
bellies and hearts and arms to fill.

That’s us. Black hair—she smiled with such
grey eyes. You watched her pass without
heart-ill goodbyes, at least in words.
And summer passed, and autumn turned
to place her in the pines, in heaps
of needles, sharp with what you felt
but did not say. We found her there:
ponderosas, pitch-dark like her hair.

We sang you out one icy night,
with half-shy notes of grief you would
have quickly silenced. We stood there
by your bed and sang the trio, though
you were joking when you asked; how
truly black she was beside you—
Tongue lolling, and that spooky eye
watching even as we said goodbye.


Sarah Dunster picSarah Dunster is wife to one, mother to seven, and an author of fiction and poetry. Her
poems have appeared on the online LDS poetry blog Wilderness Interface Zone as well as in
Victorian Violet Press, Segullah Magazine, Dialogue: Journal of Mormon Thought, Psaltery
& Lyre and Sunstone Magazine. She has published two novels with Cedar Fort under their
Bonneville Books imprint: the award winning historical fiction novel Lightning Tree, and Mile
21, which is a contemporary fiction/romance novel. When she is not writing Sarah can often
be found cleaning, cooking vegetarian or international meals, holding small people in her lap,
driving kids to soccer and piano lessons, singing in local musical productions with her family
or taking long walks after dark, especially in thunderstorms.

God Filled the Earth with Tigers by Sarah Dunster

From a photo by J. Patrick Fischer3 via Wikimedia Commons Images

God filled the earth with tigers;
men and beasts warring for blood.
He painted them with warning
signs—what scarlet spots! In God
we do not doubt. God filled the

earth with tigers.

The Father blessed his daughters
in the order of His good
Son, that we might all know good
and evil. And still we choose
sore fruit. God filled the earth with


The spirit’s rushing waters
cannot stop Missouri silt
from covering the sins of
generations. What are we,
crouching here? God filled the earth

with tigers.

And you. Somehow there were no
stripes to warn. I fell, a thorn,
and you rid your hide of
pain. But, Love, certain death waits,
biding in the long, slow bleed–

God filled the earth with tigers.


To read more of Sarah’s work on WIZ, go here, here, here, and here.

Image from a photo by J. Patrick Fischer via Wikimedia Commons Images.

In the Night by Sarah Dunster

Snowy ground2 by Kim Hansen via Wikimedia Commons Images

We slumber heavy in the night
so long as hills are bare and white,
and what is real, is pressing. What
can you do but answer. What can
you do but take my jaw in hand
and answer. And what can I, but

know you while night visions press us, hot
in our down blanket. What cannot
be spoken we will speak with night
still resting on us—your air
on me, and my warm shoulder bare
to you—real, real as day is light

until we wake in morning’s cold,
when mountains, rimming in the gold
of cresting sun, can no more be
deferred. What can we do but rise.

That I could stop you with my gaze
as you work your task of leaving me.


Sarah Dunster is wife to one, mother to seven, and an author of fiction and poetry. Her poems have appeared on Wilderness Interface Zone as well as in Victorian Violet Press, Segullah Magazine, Dialogue: Journal of Mormon Thought, and Sunstone Magazine. Her novel Lightning Tree was released by Cedar fort in April of 2012. When she is not writing, Sarah can often be found cleaning, cooking vegetarian meals, holding small people in her lap, or taking long, risky walks after dark, especially in thunderstorms.

Tangled Women by Sarah Dunster

grapevine tendril by _sjg_

Mother always dreamed of our perfection,
daughters who escaped her careless jumble
with cool minds and clear heads. A strong woman

was (she first thought) in lines of a chi garden
with stones laid straight and raking gravel—
tines in furrows, dug for our perfection.

Then battling with star thistles and watermelons
sprung up from seeds of wars in a tough tumble
of coiling vine, she became the sort of woman

who taught her daughters the raw mysticism
of broken earth while the sting of new soil
stirred us. She demonstrated the perfection

of bulbs thrown, of planting in a pattern
of scatter. With closed eyes, she tossed her handful
in hope that we would all grow to be women

of choice. What renaissance–the perfection
of rebellion in us tangled women.


For more by Sarah, go here and here.

While Digging Out the Garden by Sarah Dunster

You, but not you.

The earth braces itself against
my first spade full—ground softened by
my salt—unearthing roots  like fingers
spread to sky, claiming a blessing
or, at least, an answer.

You are earth. You. But not
you—we never buried you, and
I never saw your face in death.

I’m alive, yet not alive.

I walk through shadowed valleys and
I find the Tree—not fruited, but felled;
a blackened trunk, with spring sprung up
in a hundred nubile branches—

Me. And you.

The garden must be dug. My young
plants wait on the sill, stretching leggy
stems to reach the light. I turn the
earth. What lies beneath? My spade-tip
scrapes the iron mantle, while I
hang on the wooden handle.


To read Sarah’s bio and other Spring Poetry Runoff entries, go here and here.

*Competition entry*

Invasion by Sarah Dunster

I watch April for the breath of life;
stirring roots threading secret ways
through soil. The thrill, when I wake and find
dug garden beds dusted in wild Irish green.
Her crop is more diverse, resilient, more
matched to this soil and these waters
than any I will bring. I turn the earth,
interring new life back into its birth
and fold the dirt around my cup-fed roots
like a swaddling blanket. I coax my seedlings
as they stretch languid limbs for me to
prop and shield from deserving predators.
But She will resurrect, and the natives have
always been tough to kill—wave after
brave green wave claims their land back.
They raise their furious heads and set
their necks against me. I turn the earth again
and again. With May I fall to my knees and
execute them one by one, in favor of my
still-ungrateful progeny, now jailed in cages,
and I hope for harvest worthy of my effort and
the death of a thousand aborigines.

Sarah Dunster is a loyal contributor to WIZ. For a recent bio and her other entry in Spring Runoff, go here.

*Competition entry*

Sestina by Sarah Dunster

How long, I wonder, will I wait
for broods to gather round my legs.
And I’ll have feed. Every dry mouth
will fill, for ripening cheeks. I glean
from spare fields, following, with two
shallow baskets. My hands are old.

At ten I fancied to be old
enough to take my own train, wait
by myself on benches. With two
more years to run on young spring legs
I fished like mad and scrapped to glean
sweet, white flakes for my greedy mouth.

When I first shut my parching mouth
against the dust that made me old
I watched a grey crow scratch and glean
for moldy bread. I thought to wait
to see if it would beak my legs
and try to find a crumb or two.

Then ants came marching two by two
across my prickling, salty mouth.
I swallowed, tried to bend my legs
and run to catch up with the old
-est, brownest boy. He couldn’t wait
for me to bend my back and glean.

When Marchest days brought winds that gleaned
a tree branch of its pear or two,
I thought to ask my love to wait
while I found seeds and crammed my mouth
and prayed for fruit before I’m old
enough to trip on tottering legs.

The grass still cut my blue-skinned legs
before I knelt with shears to glean
as stars crept out. The moon was old
and almost full. I wished for two
more pomegranates. Watch this mouth
shake, catching flakes. And still I wait.

The wheat grows old as I try two
crumbs and cross my legs. The crows glean
for worms. I press my mouth and wait.

Sarah Dunster is an award-winning poet and fiction writer. Her poems have been published in Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought, Segullah Magazine, and Victorian Violet Press. Her short fiction piece, Back North, is featured in Segullah’s Fall 2011 issue. Her novel Lightning Tree will be released this week by Cedar Fort. Sarah has six children and one on the way and loves writing almost as much as she loves being a mom. Link here to other Sarah’s other contributions to WIZ, including an excerpt of her novel.

*Competition entry*

Excerpt from Lightning Tree by Sarah Dunster


Sarah Dunster’s historical novel Lightning Tree is due for release on April 10, 2012 from Cedar Fort.  To see a book trailer for Lightning Tree, click here. If you’d like to visit Cedar Fort’s poster page for the novel, click here.  Also, Sarah has put together a blog tour for her book.  One of her stops has been A Motley Vision, where she did a fascinating interview.  To read the interview, go here.


“You all right?”

Henry’s voice startled Maggie. She had almost forgotten he was there.

“Fine.” Maggie folded the letter up and put it in her pocket. “I’ve got to go.”

“You sure you’re all right? You know, Maggie—that part about the sisters in Pleasant Green—”

“I’m fine,” Maggie snapped. She shrugged his hand off her shoulder.

“Maggie, I don’t think you are. Maggie, let us help you!”

“I don’t need help,” Maggie muttered. “There’s nothing you can do anyway, Henry.” She walked out the door into the snow. She felt oddly empty. It was good, because she knew she ought to be feeling a lot worse. Maybe if she just kept on going, kept her feet moving, she wouldn’t have to feel it. Like hypothermia, if she just kept moving, maybe she would survive.

She made her way up snowy streets, off to the side to let others pass. She felt the soft brush of the snowbanks against her skirts.

At the edge of the town blocks, the cold began to seep into her, making her bones throb. She stood there a moment, looking out on the wide, white expanse of the empty fields east of town. She sat, suddenly, in the snow, with her back up against a fence post.

She gazed up at the mountains. Squaw Peak had always looked, to Maggie, like it had been created for the express purpose of jumping. It’s a giant jump-off point, jutting out over the valley so that you could fall thousands of feet without hitting anything. Maybe it even gave you enough time to lose all your senses, before that final, terrible crash into the earth.

With their blue color and caps of snow which trailed in lacy white lines down their sides, Maggie could almost imagine they were giant waves, big enough to reach her
there on the edge of the fields. She could almost sense a little bit of motion. They were slowly coming for her. They would take her, and sweep her up, up, up, over their tops and fold her inside of them, and she wouldn’t have to think or feel anymore.

Maggie stood then. She couldn’t feel her legs, but she didn’t need to feel them. She could still walk, and so she did. It gave her a tiny edge of pleasure to wade through the snow, to break a new path in all the soft whiteness.

At first she thought she would just wade over to the edge of the mountain and begin to walk up it, and get as far as she could, but her feet took her in another direction. The last of the Chaberts. Giovanna is an Alden now. Because I can’t take care of her. The thought brought the first edge of pain, and then it overwhelmed her. She stumbled and nearly fell as it descended on her like the giant mountain-waves she had been imagining, crashing over her and covering her in blackness. She kept moving, only because she suddenly had the fierce, aching desire to visit Noémie.

We’re the two last Chaberts. The two who can still be together. Who aren’t buried on the plain, or in Great Salt Lake City. We can be together, at least. Me and Noémie. We were the last two pieces that made a family, and so we can at least be together. The riverbank was a lot higher up if you tried to find it east of town, so Maggie circled up around the north side of the fort; the newer one that touched the northern edge of the town’s walls.

This is my real home, Maggie thought as she came through the homestead door.

This is the last place my family was.


Lightning Tree Author Sarah DunsterSarah Dunster is the mother of six young children. Her childhood journals are littered with poems, stories, and drawings of maps, characters, and places she imagined for her stories. She wrote her first novel at age nine – a rambling combination of Little Women and Anne of Green Gables, scribbled on binder paper – and tortured her friends by making them listen to the whole thing. Sarah is an award-winning poet; her pieces have been published in Segullah Magazine and Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought. In addition to writing she loves reading, singing, skiing, and educating her children at home. Sarah lived for ten years in Provo, and grew to love the places, people, and history of Utah Valley.

Thank you, 2012 LONNOL participants!

Valentine_Antique image woman bird cupids

Wilderness Interface Zone would like to thank participants who put their hearts in our Love of Nature Nature of Love Month.  The list includes:

Elizabeth Pinborough
Kathryn Knight
Gail White
Ashley Suzanne Musick
Sarah Dunster
Chanel Earl
Sarah Dunster
Mark Penny
Laura Craner
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Jonathon Penny

You all helped WIZ celebrate love and nature with fair fond tokens of well-worded affection.  Thank you!

Thanks also go to our readers and commenters.  There’s still plenty of room open (until March 24) on our LONNOL month giveaway of Typhoon, starring Dorothy Lamour and Robert Preston.  If you’d like one, please go to that post and leave a comment.  I’ll contact you for shipping information.  WIZ offers these DVDs free to readers in appreciation for your presence here and for your support of WIZ’s mission to create a rhetorically-diverse space for Mormon nature literature (though, of course, all nature writers are welcome–see submissions guidelines here).

Also, WIZ’s 4th Annual Spring Poetry Runoff Contest and Celebration will open on the vernal equinox, March 20, with categories for both competition and non-competition, an open-invitation spring haiku chain, another Retro Review, and other revelry.  Please make a note of the Runoff’s pending arrival and watch for announcements detailing this year’s activities and prizes.

Again, deepest affection to you, contributors, and to you, readers and followers of WIZ, for your continued presence here.