Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Poem by Nels Hanson

Conversations with a Ghost

“The Garden of Eden was the Fall, Phil,
God’s own bad idea, not Eve or Adam

and the apple—” Who else but the dead
could speak so naturally about the tender

curved necks of Franz Marc’s “Blue Horses,”
the faded poster in the cluttered den,

three heavy sleepy ponies painted Prussian blue,
grazing emerald grass grown so tall

before man was born and the horses caught
and tamed? Or laugh at an absurd passage

from Edith Sitwell’s Life of Alexander Pope
I found behind the sofa, how Jonathan Swift

described in avaricious detail the savory
dinner he should have prepared

for the poet and his companions, mourning
they had arrived so late and unannounced,

insisting his guests accept exact payment
in coin, in compensation for the sumptuous

delicacies no one would ever prepare
or taste? “‘Cherry tart, three shillings—roasted

lobster, eight shillings—Portuguese Madeira,
two and ten—gosling soup, six shillings—

There you go, my good fellow,’” Ellen mimicked.
“‘Now the next man!’” When Dr. Johnson

was a boy before he wrote the dictionary
he was carried to the village school each

early morning by three friends who arrived
at his door and hoisted him up like a lord

in honor of his judgment, intelligence and
wit. “The kids were way better critics

than the profs at school,” Ellen laughed.
By candlelight she read that page aloud

from Boswell’s thick biography one night
the power went out at the house on Sawyer

in warm April rain that beat for hours
like laughter against the window panes.

Nels Hanson has worked as a farmer, teacher, and contract writer/editor. He graduated from UC Santa Cruz and the U of Montana and his fiction received the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award. His stories have appeared in Antioch Review, Texas Review, Black Warrior Review, Southeast Review, Montreal Review, and other journals. "Now the River's in You," a 2010 story which appeared in Ruminate Magazine, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and "No One Can Find Us," which was published in Ray's Road Review, has been nominated for the 2012 Pushcart Prizes.

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