Fact: there’s an efficiency to polygamy for spreading the Alpha-male’s seed.
And a wife can educate herself, leave children with sister-wife sitters while she
skives off to medical school or scribbles verse. There’s a long history of polygamy,
so it can’t be all grotesque. Fact: popular among vertebrates, especially mammals,
and not something invented by Mormons, it stretches back centuries, to the Hebrews,
Chinese, and to Islam’s foundations. Poly (many) gamy (partners) usually means
poly (many) gyny (wives) rather than poly (many) andry (husbands). In my Grandma’s
parlor sits a carefully-curated white poster board with pictures of my five-greats-
grandfather and his 19 sons. Grandpa Charles with his billowy white mustachios,
the stately cylinder of his Abe Lincoln hat. There should be a companion photo
showing his 9 daughters, but that portrait, if it exists, doesn’t prove poster-worthy.
Polygamy. Husband sharing. Part-time penis-partaking. Sown and sown and then
—perhaps, the best part?—left alone. Or the worst. Fact: Some sister wives cohabit,
split the chore list: First takes kids, Second cooks meals, Third cleans house.
Each with a niche, organized like a hive of worker bees with one King and many
queens, workers swapping gossip about their husband’s foibles and niceties,
while they almanac a rotary schedule for his seed. Grandma’s poster she displays
like an inheritance of jewels. At a family reunion, someone calls out the trivia question:
How many wives did Charles Ramsden Bailey have? My grandma yells the correct
answer: Four. The first divorced him. The next two he married the same day. I learn
this when I’m 17 years old, the same age Hannah was when Grandpa married her, his
fourth. I learn this over a plate of the best peach pie I’ve ever tasted, at once
assaulted by the sweet tang of fresh peaches from the orchard across the street,
and by the newsflash that my family tree branches, twists, in ways I would not have
guessed; that my genealogy’s complex. Fact: I wouldn’t be me without it.
Dayna Patterson is a consulting editor for Bellingham Review, poetry editor for Exponent II Magazine, and founding editor-in-chief of Psaltery & Lyre. She is a co-editor (with Tyler Chadwick and Martin Pulido) of Dove Song: Heavenly Mother in Mormon Poetry (Peculiar Pages Press 2018). Her poetry has appeared recently in Hotel Amerika, Sugar House Review, Western Humanities Review, and Zone 3, among others. You can discover more at www.daynapatterson.com.