Nels Hanson

Issue No. 19 • Spring 2018


My mother asked me years ago
if my Grandmother Georgia slipping
deep into forgetfulness, some kind
of Alzheimer’s or dementia, now

had forgotten everything. I said no
then, the mind was like a library
where every memory remained in
place but that the card catalogue got

lost. That could be true, I don’t know
much about neurology, ailments of
the brain, or if the mind and brain
are one or two. I do know over time

things can get too much, gradually
you can let their imprint start to drift
away, like a key a part of you no longer
wants to slip into the lock and turn. A

day you see its profile of bronze teeth
on a cluttered end table but let it stay
there, hiding place discovered now and
registered for when you need it. Another

day it’s gone and for a week you look
and look until you find it in a dresser
drawer or on the drainboard behind
the toaster. You feel relief but still

don’t pick it up, drop it in your apron
pocket, now you know surely where
to find it. Then you forget where you
found it and look again and fail to

find it and with another kind of relief
you feel just briefly, familiar warm
breeze from childhood near Alma in
New Mexico, the scent of purple sage,

calling nickname of a long dead brother
who’s wandered off, like his father sure
he’ll find the gold, until you don’t recall
it’s lost and search for the key again.

“Ready or not, here I come!”
the one with open eyes calls
after counting blind to a 100

and seeks until a first child is
found, then “Olly Olly Oxen
Free!” the signal to the better

hidden to run safely back to
base. Lately as I grow older
I recall childhood more and

a cousin agreed it’s the same
with him though my younger
brother answers he hasn’t got

there yet. I have. This present
summer night’s soft breeze I
wait where loud one “It” can’t

find me, hollow crown where
branches start, moonlight and
walnut leaves make speckled

harlequins. I’m not alone, only
one distrusts singsong rhyme
all’s free and clear, listening

for another, a different voice
calling us from hiding places,
a late whisper to come home.

Plowed furrows or ocean waves
the afternoon’s far ranks of cloud
in receding echelon build stairs

to climb horizon’s end toward
richer country where no day or
season alters, home to extinct

inhabitants Earth wanted only
for a while. Like discarded toys
they wear odd tusks, awkward

plates of armor, Teratorn’s black
feathers four feet long, vast eagle
gliding whiter Andes. The great

Arctodus Simus, bear standing                                                                                                   
four yards tall, greeted America’s
first men. Dodo lives there, walks

calmly as Passengers cross blue our
sky gave up for those needing sky,
above our pastures’ purest greens

now appearing paler here, weeping
willow’s shade less dense as others
require shadow. Borrowed yellow

turned gold saffron sun illumines
sanctuary for those done with Time
that never waits for its abandoned

favorites to change to different
beasts who’ll flourish in a world
grown dimmer as they disappear.