NELS HANSON

Dogs

Jane Goodall says that chimpanzees are as violent as men.
She would prefer rebirth as loved and cared-for family dog.

As time passes I forget names of children I knew at school.
In 100 years I’d never disremember the names of any dogs.

People aren’t so loving, willing to forgive, so kind, so loyal.
Just a quirk of language that backwards “god” spells “dog”?

At recess we played a game called “Red Rover Come Over.”
You had to pick a breed and run when they called your dog.

Odysseus returned from wandering and no person knew him.
In 20 years he’d changed and aged, but not to Argos, his dog.

I read stories of them racing into deadly fires to save a child.
Above all, humans fear death but loss of love frightens dogs.

When Father moved to Fresno his blue-heeler wouldn’t eat.
My brother called him to return, to rescue his heartsick dog.

Do you know the story of Greyfriars Bobby in Edinburgh?
Fourteen years at his master’s grave lay the mourning dog.

Sad when the Russians put Laika in one-way orbit of Earth?
What crueler punishment is there, to be alone and be a dog?

I’ve heard all the excuses for why they’re better than we are.
Dogs begin and end with love but we never learn from dogs.


The Butterfly

The butterfly wears a pretty word each different country.
French say “papillon” and Italians “farfalla” for butterfly.

Spain it’s “mariposa,” “paruparo” in the far Philippines.
Names sound beautiful to match the beauty of a butterfly.

Two millennia ago the wise Chuang Tzu woke up confused.
A butterfly dreaming of a man, man dreaming a butterfly?

Monarchs love milkweed and fly from Mexico to Canada.
In eucalyptus in one orange sheath sleep 1,000 butterflies.

Yellow swallowtails drank from my grandmother’s roses.
Each wing’s violet oasis belongs only to those butterflies.

The Greek work “psyche” is “breath” and stands for soul.
In Southeast Asia and India live white Psyche Butterflies.

A colored wing makes a stained-glass window in the sun.
On awful walls of death doomed children drew butterflies.

Everywhere the butterfly sings a prophecy of resurrection.
From the cocoon’s sealed coffin rises the ghostly butterfly.

Do you believe man and woman, each child hides wings?
Phoenix from the ashes, a spirit in bloom is the butterfly.


Hummingbird

Hovering from bloom to bloom it perches by a sweeter flower.
Fifty, 30, 10 or two, how many wings beats the hummingbird?

Blur of fanning wings suggests flashing pages of a secret book.
Small as a pearl with a king inside are eggs of hummingbirds.

Such a swift needle, the narrow bill stitching the garden’s air!
Green, ruby, now blue shines magic armor of a hummingbird.

Quickest arrow, its racing thirst finds the target made of sugar.
No propeller sings so surely as whirring hushed hummingbird.

How silently the tiny heart beats, its chambers open and close.
Children’s clicking tongues speak a dialect of hummingbirds.

Not here but everywhere, the same its arriving and departing:
God must think at light’s speed to overtake the hummingbird.

Its daily wild but certain path traces new mandala from Tibet.
So miniscule, so powerful, scaled dragons the hummingbirds.

A ruby-throated visitor tries my white jasmine of Madagascar.
Amid star-shaped flowers, star-to-star flies this hummingbird.

Did Lilliputians write their letters with a hummingbird’s quill?
Islanders stood six inches high, and blossoms, hummingbirds?

Voice of Hummingbird-on-the-Left led Aztecs to their capital.
The god drank blood, dead warriors returned as hummingbirds.

Their plumes flicker like a flaring rainbow or the peacock’s fan.
Iridescent, prismatic, no name has the luster of a hummingbird.


Nels Hanson’s fiction received the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award and Pushcart nominations in 2010, 12, and 2014. Poems appeared in Word Riot, Oklahoma Review, Pacific Review and other magazines and received a 2014 Pushcart nomination, Sharkpack Review’s 2014 Prospero Prize and a 2015 Best of the Net nomination.