Like an old astrologer in a midnight
study as a child he senses a wooden
map holds with all its puzzle pieces
a secret, 48 colored shapes and sizes
the coded solution, Hawaii, Alaska
territories then as Pacific westerlies
sway the country eastward. Canada
heavy with ancient ice slides down
glaciers from The Pole and presses
a swale at the High Line, snowmelt
flooding Michigan in orange halves,
Maine’s green wolf, wild Labrador
a ship’s masthead looking seaward.
Florida and the far tip of great heart
that’s Texas reach a scarlet finger to
Atlantic’s blue. Rivers, Mississippi,
Missouri wash sandy banks, curve
edges of states stacked five, six tall,
star a capital named after Jefferson
in a tilted Z, pink barn in a cyclone.
Only Colorado and Buckaroo State
Wyoming stand plumb at four neat
corners. Un-pictured on the painted
jigsaw scarps enforce the borderline,
save Nevada’s flawed amber topaz
from 49ers crying Eureka!, starving
Donner Party intent on Golden Gate.
Virginia shard dagger, New Mexico
almost a perfect mesa and Louisiana
pirate’s purple boot, the yellow cliff
of Idaho rises in stairway to a tower,
Montana’s browsing auburn buffalo
in silhouette the russet hill. Vermont,
New Hampshire split twin fragments
from one square mirror, one glances
up for angels, other at hell, New York
a sleeping emerald man. Some veiled
pattern, elusive design, coy phantom
invisible under black light? Should I
apply the artist’s palette or calibrate
new surveyor’s transit, track a furtive
system x-ray might detect or employ
a Geiger counter? Cryptic force, way
atoms bind 10,000 particles in orbits,
a trillion obscure parabolas to trace,
equation sheer lattice like salt water
waiting for single seed to crystallize?
Just tinted glass, stray flecks frozen
few seconds in a child’s horoscope?
Compass rose, a rainbow snowflake,
mandala the round cathedral window
dissolve, disappear as porthole spins,
view jumping now to a flaring nova
bright and final anyone understands.
About the Author
Nels Hanson grew up on a small raisin and tree fruit farm in the San Joaquin Valley of California, earned degrees from U.C. Santa Cruz and the U of Montana, and has worked as a farmer, teacher and contract writer/editor. His fiction received the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award and Pushcart nominations in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016. His poems received a 2014 Pushcart nomination, Sharkpack Review’s 2014 Prospero Prize, and 2015 and 2016 Best of the Net nominations.