Orderville: a poem

By Michael Bennett

Orderville … A chall’nging place to find;

It lay somewhere along the byway

Leading off the eight nine highway;

Near to Bryce, towards Zion’s skyway,

Somewhere there’s a town that left behind

The wayward world, the 70s; No mind …

We’d say, “’twas never my way.”

 

Orderville … the very sound tells all;

It speaks of tidiness and care,

Of peace and quiet everywhere,

Of satisfaction in the air,

But then we hear the silence-shatt’ring call

To gather quickly in the banquet hall

To share communal prayer.

 

Yes, Orderville … a nineteenth-century thought …

A nearly perfect village, this,

Combining fair Utopian bliss

With Godly ways, and Godly kiss;

Eliminating fear from those with naught,

By taking some from those who might have brought

What little they’ll not miss.

 

This Orderville … though busy, seems content;

United Order was the th’ inspired name

Of this strange life for those who came;

All things in common—all the same;

As stewards for their needs, with no dissent,

While working fields (they earned such pittance spent),

Gave surplus, without claim.

 

In Orderville … the trumpet plays at five;

Its waking call, a Mormon hymn,

Persuading all of life and limb

To come, though morning light’s yet dim;

And so with yawn and laughter they arrive

To start communal days … to thrive and strive

To fill Joy’s cup, up to the brim.

 

In Orderville … by seven, most chores done,

The trumpet sounds the breakfast call

For young and old and short and tall

To gather in the dining hall.

And there three rows of tables neatly run,

Much like a boarding house.

The meal’s begun, But first, one prays for all.

 

Prompt Orderville … at twelve, the call for lunch;

From orchards, fields and chicken coops,

From everywhere, alone or groups,

They come again to scarf the soups

And everything prepared for them to munch;

And knowing well there’ll be no fancy brunch,

They wait like hungry troops.

 

It’s Orderville … another hymn at six …

The hall once more; when all are there,

The evening starts again with prayer.

When supper’s done, the hall is bare

Until the morn when trumpet’s clockwork ticks,

Announcing once again with hymns he picks,

That love is everywhere.

 

For Orderville … a hundred miles from rail,

Was isolated from the world;

Removed from wickedness that swirled

About them; sin that Satan hurled

At weaker folk, but certainly would fail

To change this less-known populated dale,

Long hid like fetal curled.

 

Yes, Orderville … its punctual, communal meals

Had brought the town’s life to a place

Of testing: if their co-op pace

Survived the overt frantic race

Of nearby towns whose economic deals

Had many undeniable appeals

Which beckoned an embrace.

 

In Orderville … the many tests began:

Was he quite willing then to do

The things the elders told him to?

And was his language ever blue,

And did he steal, or drink? And so it ran

From Godly acts to those of mortal man,

Exploring things taboo.

 

’Twas Orderville, indeed … and he who passed

Was welcome; property was shared;

A job, though ill or well prepared,

Was given, and I’m sure few cared;

For paramount was just to be steadfast;

A poor, lost soul, he—an iconoclast,

Outsiders say—impaired.

 

In Orderville … by credit they were paid;

And though this ne’er provoked a brawl,

The wages seemed a trifle small—

A dollar and a half is all

For working all day long, and I’m afraid

That even wives, paid half, though welcomed aid,

Still, heeded they, the call.

 

Hence, Orderville … It may seem slightly strange

That money was not paid or spent—

’Twas credit borrowed, credit lent;

And nothing harbored discontent,

Because, you see, ’twas easy to arrange

Your simple life, since never was there change,

And no embezzlement.

 

In Orderville … each year, if at the end,

One’s pay exceeded then his spending,

Back it goes in perfect blending. 

Odd, though, is comprehending

How the wives would never e’er contend

That such arrangements could not ever rend

Their dreams that might need mending.

 

Orderville … The structure as was seen

Was stricter than surrounding places—

Alien to surrounding faces;

Add to that, it well embraces

All that’s proper, peaceable, serene,

Domesticated, well controlled, and clean,

With lots of breathing spaces.

 

Orderville … Had nothing they need buy,

Aside from arms, machinery,

And ammunition; all agree

That every known necessity

Was grown or manufactured close nearby,

Including cotton, coal, and fish to fry;

God bless the honeybee.

 

But Orderville … was too successful then;

For peace with neighb’ring towns was hard,

And outside pressure sadly marred

Serenity they’d sought to guard;

Their self-sufficiency worked only when

They managed to keep out the worldly men

From whom their youth were barred.

In Orderville … At Christmas, Brother Carling,

Sensing coming gladsome noise,

Devoted time to making toys

For all the little girls and boys:

Stuffed animals that looked prepared for snarling,

Dolls and such that looked just oh so darling …

Gifts that each enjoys.

 

That’s Orderville … but elsewhere, no one cheered;

We’d picked the finest grazing land,

And labor pooled, all happ’ly manned …

’Twas difficult to understand:

For other Mormons, struggling, somehow feared

That Orderville produced things cheaper, it appeared,

And claimed the Master’s hand.

 

Plain Orderville … Why others seemed to titter:

Stern and simple regimen,

And clothes and boots like Amish men

Who worked and played together then

With clannishness … Yet ridicule was bitter;

There was (never mind which group was fitter)

Jealousy again.

 

Poor Orderville … One wonders why it died.

Was outside pressure named the sin,

Or was it weakness from within?

Could it have lived with discipline

More focused on apartness, and applied

More earnestly, or was the fateful slide

Already in its spin?

Sick Orderville … The reason’s hard to say,

But, maybe, one small weakness might

Have been a major oversight …

The founders somehow failed to write

Provisions for the young men in a way

That growing up they’d have more needed pay

To help with future’s bite.

 

Young Orderville … with less than fathers chose,

They envied youth from out of town,

Who swagg’ring by, as though renown,

(And wearing nothing ‘hand-me-down’)

Quite bent on loudly flaunting store-bought clothes.

The elders, standing firmly to oppose,

Could little do, but frown.

 

In Orderville … The road to dissolution:

First from neighbors—other ones,

Whose silver mines brought easy funds;

More wage mistakes with local sons;

Polygamy and growing prosecution …

Three, with fundament’ly no solution;

So, downhill it runs.

 

Sad Orderville … by 1885,

’Twas clear, the perfect way was gone;

The folks, still mostly up at dawn,

Tried not to sink to Babylon,

And while there was a last-ditch try to strive

To keep that share-it-all appeal alive,

They couldn’t carry on.

 

And Orderville … could not abide … and died.

Poem based on material found in Mormon Country by Wallace Stegner, “The Arcadian Village,” 108–127.

Michael J. Bennett

Michael J. Bennett, author of the poem “Orderville,” is a member of the of the National Society of the Sons of Utah . Michael was raised in Salt Lake City, attended East High School and the University of Utah, and has a master’s degree in retailing from New York University in New York City. He worked in the department store business in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and at ZCMI in Salt Lake City.

After 18 years in the retail business he quit his job and became what he always wanted to be: a professional actor. He has appeared in over 100 films including A More Perfect Union, which airs nationally on PBS each July 4th. He has also acted in eight episodes of the popular television series Touched by an Angel. He has worked in dinner theater, the Utah Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City, the Old Lyric Theatre in Logan, and the Grand Teton Mainstage theater in Jackson, Wyoming. Though he has over 600 radio and TV commercials under his belt and dozens of writing and directing theatrical works to his credit, he is perhaps best known for writing and appearing in one-man-shows, some of which he has performed for the .

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