Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Poem of the Day: “After the Silver Rain” by Nels Hanson

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “After the Silver Rain” by Nels Hanson.  A brief bio of Mr. Hanson may be found here:

After the Silver Rain
Nels Hanson

Remember the day the black stray dog, Great Dane,
wandered onto the ranch?

Later the tin canister above the stove lay on the floor,
no prints, everywhere sugar grains like snow.

The white goose at the steps, calling for you?

We played a week until our father found its owner,
old Mexican man who cried when Dad drove up.

The great horned owl roosting in the coast redwood,
gliding in daylight, wings four feet wide, razor
talons seizing the fence’s rail, yellow eyes
staring five minutes, five feet away?

In the lent cabin at Shaver Lake Mother opened
a cupboard and a pygmy owl sat on a shelf.

We heard ghost feet climbing stairs, in the morning
found big cat’s wet paw prints halfway up.

On the pond’s bank when they were boys Grandpa Rees’
cousin Rollo tried to catch a mink and nearly
lost his thumb.

Grandpa Frank on a horse lassoed an angry badger
in the alfalfa field before the war.

The red-tail hawk swooped and lifted the mud hen
from the ditch and dropped it on the paved road
on purpose, swooped again to carry it limp
to the blue gum grove where all year until December
turkeys lived and February migrating turkey
vultures circled.

That guy who kept the female fox terrier, daughter’s pet
always in heat?

He shot neighbor dogs chasing his gobblers.

Pair of pure scarlet pigeons in the cote you built, same style
and color as our small house?

Those times I shinnied the tetherball pole they landed
on my white sailor’s cap.

I remember bluebirds best, first in the hay barn, flitting
in gold light at the loft door. Years later, pruning bare peaches,
brown earth and limbs, chill tulle fog, gray long winter,
we’d see them.

Bluebirds like chips of bluest quartz from some country
of blue gems alive as water, sign farther south
Spring already was there?

Season a sapphire kingfisher, strange huge hummingbird
with crest and crow’s black beak hovered 10 feet over
brimming pond and dived for sunfish, small-mouthed
bass, channel cats we planted?

That was before drought years.

Remember the silver rain?

Poet’s Notes:  In my poem "After the Silver Rain," I tried take a step backward, to not "interfere" at first and let true memories of encounters with animals present themselves as they happened, to assume their own shape. One recalled experience triggered another, until I sensed a pattern forming, of non-human vivid and important presences disappearing, until their absence joined the retreat of rain and the arrival of the long, unprecedented California drought (a "before and after" photo is pictured). The lived "facts" began to organize themselves, and I realized my poem was about an enchanted world that too quickly became extant only in memory.

Editor’s Note:  The poet weaves the collage of memories and images into a nice, cohesive whole here, leading to the sad surprise of the penultimate line.  Had he ended there, the poem would have been powerful enough, but the last line he chose serves to enhance the feelings of loss, nostalgia, and pain.  "After the Silver Rain" first appeared in the March 2015 issue of Blue Bonnet Review.

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