Nels Hanson


An Old Man

I’ve heard of it and seen it several
times before, my grandfather one
example, the couple near Medford
in Oregon, a widower Dad knew,
and now I’m joining them, those
elder people closing a still room,
another, until there’s the kitchen,
next door where you sleep. A stove
to cook, warmth, table, two chairs,
white salt and pepper shakers with
blue Dutch windmills, sugar bowl,
on the wall photo of grazing horses,
greenest pasture, some distant season
from a catalogue. Now it’s few and
simple things, fork, knife, spoon, your
mother’s silver butter dish, standing
Guernsey the handle on the oval lid,
three plates. Over the waking ice box
the clock never tires or slows, except
a fuse sparks, lightning storm, hours
drinking steadily like milk the Kings
River’s current turning big wheels then
spilling down Pine Flat Dam’s smooth
slope. The mailbox out front remains
your path to follow, red flag raised for
payments due. At sink’s stuck window
see the renter’s tilled field, gold flowers
rising without help, learning years ago
to trust in sun and rain, the faucet’s dry
washer and fertile white-ash soil, rare
frost, each early morning’s new chance,
the Sierras’ high towers returned again

NELS HANSON grew up on a small farm in the San Joaquin Valley of California, graduated from UC Santa Cruz and the U of Montana, and has worked as a farmer, teacher and contract writer/editor. His fiction received the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award and Pushcart nominations in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016. His poems received a 2014 Pushcart nomination, Sharkpack Review’s 2014 Prospero Prize, and 2015 and 2016 Best of the Net nominations.