On Doubt

By July 1, 2009

For those embroiled by the academic search for truth?who have suspended belief or lost faith or sought a new faith?the word is not doubt but hope, fierce and brave and full of anxious questions. A few poems today from beloved poetess Emma Lou Thayne.

“Pruning the Sage”

The sage has crept
through all the tangle
of the privet. It
nudges dry against
the aspen and the dogwood,
parching in the
shadowed sun,
clutching spaces.
Dutifully I
cut the deadwood from
the sapless gnarls
that snap against
their loss, and
the first clean cut
brings mountains to
my hands, a pungent
tantalizing terror.

I?m climbing
stony hours above
the stream where
only wild, sharp sage
can grow. The rocky
path grates to crags
that must be climbed.

Who dares to grab
the elbowed sage and
swing across the granite
face to skinny footholds
laddering the sky?
Who will finger for
a ledge where rattlesnakes
lie green on gray?
Who?ll risk the snakes because the sage
gives arms to climb?

Swift, confident
I prune. Dead
branches fall away
to open spaces
redolent of rattlesnakes
but wide enough
to bare four violets
in bloom.


?. . . in whom persuasion and belief
Had ripened into faith, and faith become
A passioned intuition.?
?William Wordsworth
?The Excursion?

I don?t know why I know :

Believing goes so often skittering
From those who need and grasp the most;
Then what incredible (as always) Grace
Makes me its doubtful, easy host?

“Lake Powell: The White Death”
The canyon, now canal, was desert dry
For Escalante; Mormons dredged the dust
To reach the raging Colorado. High
Above it foliage crept through sandstone crust

To issue rivulets of roots that ran
Long lengths beyond themselves. Ingenious in
Their urgent, parched demands, they groped to fan
The arid miles and tap the river?s thin

Sweet bed. Today trees edge the water line,
Which inches close and drowns to stiffened white
What once was supple green. Bleak, blanched design
Reflects the lethal water?s changing height.

Beneath, where white roots intertwine with green,
The thirst goes hunting, changeless, sure, unseen.


my searching
my unsteady voice:
You share
the blame;
it’s You
who gave me

“The Search”

Malignant man? A hostile world? Abyss?
Bad faith? No authenticity? Aliens,
Desperate, mortal, thumbing meaningless
Minutia? Love reduced to sex and Zen?

No absolutes? A shifting, soggy muck
That swallows ethics in situations?
A god who?s dead? Where platitudes can suck
The life from living? Where gross sensations

Call themselves awareness? Where any real
Is fake unless illusion? Nudity
To strip a role? And stripped, made numb to feel?
Anxious man pandering absurdity?

To cheat the blind leviathan of change,
We re-define but cannot re-arrange.

Spaces in the Sage, Parliament Publishers, 1971, pp. 2-3, 9, 28, 39, 48.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. Thanks for this, Liz. I especially like “Heretic” and being addressed, to God. I take comfort in the unwritten response to that plea that I’ve felt in my searchings. Now, someone should reformulate that to speak toward not God, but fellow Mormons 🙂

    Comment by Jared T — June 30, 2009 @ 2:00 pm

  2. Thank you for posting these.

    Comment by Joy — June 30, 2009 @ 4:19 pm

  3. Thanks for putting this up.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — June 30, 2009 @ 8:40 pm


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