Poems by Patrick Hansel
A man hung from his parachute
like a seed softly whirligigging down,
shouting “Don’t shoot—I surrender!”
in the tongue of the enemy, your first tongue.
He had no way to reach
his weapon, but the men under
you did, and in a minute—though your voice
was raised and your rank commanded
obedience—it was the county fair
in Shreveport, in Pembina, in New Ulm
and New Prague, step right up, everyone
wins a prize, the lights flashing,
the girls all giggles, and bullets
and a ribbon for the man who hits the nose.
Then, silence, the head of the boy
on his chest, his body limp
in its harness, gravity doing
its work. The son of German cousins—
perhaps the grandson of your grandfather’s friend—
spoiled blood over his uniform. Father,
why did you tell me this story
and not my brothers?
Your memories are like your hands:
big, calloused, open.
His boots newly shined, pulled him
down to the earth he finally
met as a shroud, a nothing,
a home. Your men did not speak.
They held their rifles across
their chests, as if bearing sick children.
Your head is the skin of a cat, gutted by a runaway taxi,
the night peeled back to its bone, a tree bereaved of leaves.
You lie on the street of this bed, strapped to the world’s four hooves,
your voice wriggles through the hole cut in your throat
you bark sawdust and rotten meat, you bless the room with regrets,
you gnaw pruned trees and forgotten thighs, you pull
photos of a bleached child out of your heart and ask me
to buy one. I will not. I cannot kiss you back to a baby,
wrap you in sweet linen, carry you to the singing pool and caw.
I stand before you as the angel of death hidden
in a hand full of water. Give me your head. Give me your hard
breath raising scarecrows out of mud. In the name of the God
who bore you, in the name of your name now fleeing,
I will make your body die, I will make your voice grow horns.
Patrick Hansel has published poems in 20 journals, including Hawai’i Pacific Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Passager, and The Meadowland Review. He was selected for the 2008-09 Mentor Series in Poetry at the Loft Literary Center in Minnesota, and was a 2011 Minnesota State Arts Board Grantee. His novella Searching was serialized in 33 issues of The Alley News.