Weekend Poetry: “To Eve–with Emapthy across the Years”

This is the first poem I remember reading in The Ensign and liking. It also appears to have been part of the last set of poems for the last year of the Eliza R. Snow contest, which ran during the 1970s and ’80s and ended in 1992. I read this poem as part of a sacrament meeting talk a few years ago.

It’s not the best poem. It contains no amazing images or turns of phrases. It’s structure is simple and rather loose. It ends a bit tritely. And yet even as corny as that ending couplet is, I find it comforting in its patience and surety. And the poem served me well when I was struggling to write a talk on women and sorrow.

To Eve–with Empathy across the Years

By Shirley Adwena Harvey

Ensign, July 1992, 49

You laid the garment aside
And stood to rest stiff shoulders–
How pleased Abel would be
At touch of the soft, supple leather.
From the door you could see the fields,
Quiet in midday sun.
The harvest had been good
And the flocks were fat.

Bent to your task again
You were not aware of the darkening sky
Or the dust-covered runner approaching
Until Adam, with ashen face, stood beside you.
Sharp as the sickle through ripe grain
Were his words “¦

You would not remember
Running through dry stubble,
Or his strong arms beneath yours;
But you would not forget pain
That tore heart and soul.
Gone–two sons of promise–
One never to see tomorrow’s dawn,
Never to father generations.
The other wrenched from you,
Marked and cast out.

There would be other dawns–and other harvests–
With long hours of toil to fill empty days.
Then slowly, surely, as pain gives way to faith,
You feel God’s love surround you,
Warm as a shawl on your shoulders,
And you hear His spirit whisper to your spirit
That sometime–somewhere in eternity–
A mother’s heart will heal.

8 thoughts on “Weekend Poetry: “To Eve–with Emapthy across the Years””

  1. .

    I was googling Shirley Adwena Harvey and I found two more poems, both in the Ensign, both in second person (1 and 2).

    I always hope, when I find someone publishing just before the WWW took over our lives, to find them online. In the Mormon arts, this rarely happens. And so, for all I know, Harvey died the month before the Eve poem was printed and can no longer discuss why her favoring the second person.

    In a smallish community, like the Mormon arts, I want to believe that no one is inseparably far away. And yet, and yet, and yet.

  2. Um, I’m curious about the “empathy” part. Does she mean that she had two sons, one of whom killed the other?

    I think I also have a natural aversion to the second person. Seems so pushy. . .

  3. I think I also have a natural aversion to the second person. Seems so pushy. . .

    We’re also quite a confessional generation, Laura. “I” has worked its way into poetry in such a way as to make anything else seem unnatural.

    But maybe anything else is…I don’t know.

  4. Hi I am Shirleys grand daughter and wanted to update you that she does have 3 son’s but none killed each other. If you want to see other poems I have many on the computer let me know at millerlinnie@gmail.com

  5. .

    At the risk of sounding insensitive, your comment makes me wonder if she has passed away? Or is she still with us and still writing?

  6. Really a beautiful poem. You could feel the warmth of the shaw. Smell the fresh grain. Very moving. I would love to see more poems.

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