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Winter 2002, Volume 19.2

Poetry

 

Tom HansenPicture of Tom Hansen.

 

Tom Hansen teaches writing and literature at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. His poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in The American Scholar, The Christian Science Monitor, The Georgia Review, The Iowa Review, New York Quarterly, Paris Review, Poetry Northwest, Prairie Schooner, South Dakota Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and others.

 

Walking the Dogs in January

We stumble out into winter.
Half a foot of new snow.
It squeaks when we walk and
keeps track:
who comes and who goes and where
and whether or not they come back.

Cold crawls up my nose.
Snakes its way down my throat.
With every breath I see
a piece of my soul leak away.
None of it ever comes back.
What if I use it all up?

But the dogs are happy,
they bound on ahead,
and what can I do but follow?
We have nowhere to go
and are eager
to get there as soon as we can.

When we arrive,
we will become
citizen-inmates of winter—
a country so cold only four words
of its lost language survive:
wind and snow and desolation

and one there are no
human sounds for.
Soon enough, we will be fluent
in that unspeakable tongue—
our footprints limping in circles,
dying to take us back home.

 

Full Moon

How many times before, old friend,
playing at this game,
have you and I stood face to face
with miles of dark between?

Not once, I think, but many times
in many different times and places
you and I with different names
faced the night with different faces;

never, in all those times, aware
of any time except our own—
as if this game of who we are
were tied to where or when.

 

Waiting in November

The glad bulbs are still underground,
meditating on final things
as daylight dims toward December.
What do they long for?
To be disinterred
and laid to rest in the cellar?
Is their dream of heaven
the second coming of April?

I think of them buried out there,
inmates of winter.
Will they die? Will they
come back next spring,
sentenced to life one more time?
What do they brood on,
cold and alone, all this long
night between heartbeats.

 

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