When You Leave

Twyla M. Hansen

When you leave it will be empty:
dried leaves on gray-haired limbs,
clumps of gooseberry minus the berries.

Tracks across frozen water will lead
to a frigid channel,
springs seeping away from the source,
snow-covered hills reminding us
of the rolling, frozen sea.

The sun, low and yellow,
will not thaw any ice-covered bridges,
all slipping and falling,
no turtle miraculous emerging
from the snowbank to save me.

When you leave it will be all deer track
and rabbit scat, decayed leaf and prickly ash,
evidence of frantic digging.
Brush continuing a slow choke
over the disconnected sandbar,
little bluestem fighting back.

When you are gone it will be indelible
as a leaf fossil in ice, brief, no answer
in the night to the call of your name,
morning minus the light, forever
non-communion.

More by Twyla M. Hansen

Homestead National Monument

—Daniel Freeman, first to file claim, Jan. 1, 1863

Here, an abundance of trees, stream, prairie—
enough to sustain a family, prove up this plot of land,
the first of thousands to be claimed across America.

Place that was first inhabited by natives, lodge-
and tipi-dwellers, who also relied on the wood, water,
flourishing wild game—hooved, pawed, and winged.

Prairie, where wild grasses are capable of growing
taller than humans, sustained through heat, drought,
cold, hail, snow, wind, by roots of unimaginable depth.

Today, those lives and roots have been forever altered:
settlement, industry, and agriculture that marched
our nation westward, the trails that led us to homes.

This nation-center of sod-grass that was plowed,
its soils rich, yielding an abundance, the foundation
of farms and ranches that sustain the multitudes.

Here, on the Homestead trails, we touch a multitude
of seed-heads, inhale green-blue-gold, hear the music
of insect-leaf-bird, bridge the creek-flow that connects

us to the past, where we ponder the flow of hope,
hardship, joy, and sorrow of this preserve, from all
that once roamed, to those spellbound as we step.

The Other Woman

as I picture her
she has no basil
no cumin
no sun-hardened hyssop
nor sage around her eyes

she never catnips
but laughs comfrey
tansy with a primula smile

as I think of her
she's angelica
foxglove and jasmine
somewhat peppermint
not letting you see
all her saffron at once

one day I’ll meet her
that rue woman
that wild indigo teasel
somewhere neutral
free of woodruff and of dropwort
some summer savory

she's the nose
set to lavender
eye full of sesame
ear ringing rosemary

she's wind
through wild thyme

Sorting

Picture him amid the rust—hand tools, jars of screws,
bolts, half-useful wrenches—assembling miniature farm
wagons, windmills, trains, as if one day he would return.

And return he does—in the various and sundry nails,
boxes of brads, wood scraps, lengths of wire thick
with dust—as the waste not want not farmer.

Which fills you with regret: not spending more time,
not listening, not facing what you could not save.

Now, you empty the pegboard of worn saw blades,
the calendar with pig photos and corny quotes, toss
handles, staples, hinges, caulk, tape, string, metal, and

weep, knowing this is as close as you will ever be to him,
his world reduced to tinkering alone down in this city cave,
touching what his rough hands touched, his curiosities,

your father under a bare bulb sawing pieces of his last
unfinished project, a sea-faring ship, its instructions and
pattern carefully numbered and folded—the glued, carved,

and sanded basswood—as if he sensed this full-blown
final creation might help him sail across that ancient sea.