Poetry

“Radiance,” “Truant,” and “Marking Him,”
by Margaret Hasse

[From the WVFC Poetry Archive. First Published  November 3, 2019.]

 

Radiance

The Roman candle of a yard light
caramelizes the old snow.
The glow trespasses the dark hold
of December, dimming the view

of the night sky with its winter
triangle a boy strains to see
through the haze, as he lets his jacket
hang open, unzipped to the cold.

He knows to return through
the black cleft between buildings,
below electric wires that seem
to carry a little train of snow

on their slim rails, where he throws
the switch that shuts off the bulb
on its pole, that opens the dome
to a blast of stars in outer space,

to the pinpoint of Jupiter,
to the constellation of Orion hunting
the Great Bear that the boy follows
to find a smudge of gray–he can gaze

through that peep hole to another
galaxy also spangled with radiance
from stars that traveled two
and a half million light years

before appearing as a signal
in the rod cells of his eyes
that pass impulses through
neurons and nerves

to his brain that creates images.
He draws in a sharp breath,
the high voltage power box
of his chest hot and humming.

 

Margaret Hasse, “Romance,” from Earth’s Appetite, published by Nodin Press and reprinted here with permission of the author and press. Copyright © 2013 by Margaret Hasse. Earth’s Appetite is available for order here and here.

 

 

Truant

Our high school principal wagged his finger
over two manila folders
lying on his desk, labeled with our names—
my boyfriend and me—
called to his office for skipping school.

The day before, we ditched Latin and world history
to chase shadows of clouds on a motorcycle.
We roared down rolling asphalt roads
through the Missouri River bottoms
beyond town, our heads emptied
of review tests and future plans.

We stopped on a dirt lane to hear
a meadowlark’s liquid song, smell
heart-break blossom of wild plum.
Beyond leaning fence posts and barbwire,
a tractor drew straight lines across the field
unfurling its cape of blackbirds.

Now forty years after that geography lesson
in spring, I remember the principal’s words.
How right he was in saying:
This will be part of
your permanent record.

 

Poem copyright ©2013 by Margaret Hasse. From Earth’s Appetite, Nodin Press 2013. Poem reprinted by permission of Margaret Hasse and the publisher.

 

 

Marking Him

Does my little son miss the smell
of his first mother? I wonder
as the mewl of his mouth
opens toward a plastic bottle
that is not her breast.

Sudden new mother,
I bury my nose deep
into his skullcap of ringlets,
his starry cheesiness.

In her good-bye letter to him
sealed in his album
with a birth certificate, which now
list my name as Mother,

his first mother writes
she nursed him briefly
after he emerged into
the second room of his world.

I think of milk, volcanic
and insistent, answering
the newborn’s gigantic thirst,
a primal agreement between
generosity and greed.

Sometimes I press my nose
to the glass of that place
where a mother and my child
belong to each other;
I cannot imagine coming
between them.

But then I want to lick him all over
with a cow’s thick tongue,
to taste him and mark him as mine
so if the other mother returns,
she will refuse her handled calf
smeared with my smell.

 

Margaret Hasse, “Marking Him” from Milk and Tides, published by Nodin Books. Copyright © 2008 by Margaret Hasse. Reprinted by permission of Margaret Hasse.

Listen to the author reading “Radiance.”

You can read more poems by Hasse here, here, and here.

 

 

Margaret Hasse, author of five collections of poems, is originally from South Dakota and now lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Stars Above, Stars Below won the Minnesota Voices competition and was published by New Rivers Press in 1984 and issued in a new edition by Nodin Press in 2018. Milkweed Editions published In a Sheep’s Eye, Darling, winner of the press’s Lakes and Prairies competition. Milk and Tides, Earth’s Appetite, and Between Us, the last of which is available here. Two books received the Midwest Independent Publishers Association’s annual poetry prize. Hasses’ poems have appeared in Poetry Northeast, The Sun magazine, Water-Stone Review, and Calyx, among others, as well as on The Writer’s Almanac radio broadcasts and podcasts and in American Life in Poetry. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the McKnight Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and The Loft Literary Center. Hasse’s poems have found new readers by being stamped on sidewalks and displayed as posters on public transportation in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

 

 

Poet’s Note

My father, a math and astronomy professor at a small university in the rural Midwest, taught me to look up and learn about the night sky. I passed on my interest in stargazing to my young sons. One winter night, in our place in the countryside, I became irritated by a neighbor’s huge yard light that always went on at dusk, blurring the view outdoors of constellations, orbiting satellites, and meteorites. I began to picture a young man about the age of my sons with the power to switch off the darn security light and welcome the darkness. What would he see; how would he connect to that spangled cosmic space?

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