Volume 12 • Number 2 • Fall - Winter 2020

Pauletta Hansel

March 20, 2020

Friend, this morning’s walk: a search for wildness.
            Last year’s nest of hornets
lists precarious from a neighbor’s Bradford Pear.
            Scrub brush greens on a narrow ridge of clay
the bulldozer unearthed.
            I stop and think about that word,
            Is that not the art we’ve tried to master?
Last night, tornado sirens;
            today sidewalks slicked with mud
that slipped the walls between hillside and street.
            The life I lived just days ago—
the clink of other people’s cutlery—
            seems as strange to me now
as pictures of the wildlife market,
            the stacked cages,
claw and beak and blood-matted fur.

June 2, 2020

Friend, you still walk your stretch of creek,
    though what was flood in spring
is a languid, muddy trickle
    in this early summer drought.
And I still trudge gray city sidewalks
    looking for the words.
You heave flat rocks
    up to the bank of Fowlers Fork;
the drystone wall
    you’ll build to save its wildness
shapely in your mind.
    I envy you your steadfast labor,
though I admit a thrill to see a wrecking ball’s
    square hit against the cornerstone
of what has long been crumbling on our streets.
    A flood is rising from the wounds
we’ve tried for centuries to ignore.
    Curfews and walls of uniforms
will not contain it. Oh, friend,
    it is so easy to say
that violence is not the answer,
    so much harder to heave all the questions
up from beneath the smooth green lawns
    on which our houses sit.

June 17, 2020

Do you remember
    when the only thing asked of us
was to keep our breath at home?
    Even that was more than we could .
Even then we were divided—
    those who thought we saved the world
by keeping it outside our doors;
    those who stocked the shelves,
loaded the delivery vans
    that kept the rest of us alive,
then hauled away our stinking excess
    as we slept. Friend, no matter
how little we thought we had,
    it was always too much.

Pauletta Hansel’s seven poetry collections include Coal Town Photograph and Palindrome, winner of the 2017 Weatherford Award; her writing has been featured in Rattle, Appalachian Journal. The Cincinnati Review, American Life in Poetry, Verse Daily and Poetry Daily, among others. Pauletta was Cincinnati’s first Poet Laureate (2016-2018) and is managing editor of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel. [Author's note] These poems were written as part of an epistolary poetry exchange earlier in the pandemic. As serendipity would have it, I had chosen letter poems as the focus of the community poetry class I teach; when we had to stop meeting after the second class, this project sustained us.