A Writer Writes


by Thor Hanson (Uganda 1993–95)

    Very simple: let the sky draw itself closed,
    taking with it the hills, the fence post, the object
    of desire. Write our names in ash on the hearth
    and the fire will burn all night. I too have spent time
    alone, rubbing the shine from stars and raking
    the beach until a single shell is left, bone white
    and dropped like a wish. There is no moon tonight and the shore
    is mostly memory, an understatement of waves and tree,
    black rocks in spindrift armor, where a kelp-stranded crab trap
    shares the reef with herons, a gull, and the skin from last
    night’s cod.

    We’ve both lost seasons to solitude, our memories yellowed
    like settlers in an old photo, hands crossed, faces just as stern
    and mouths so full of loathing. They’re gone now, like summer
    wings and water signs, or places safe from healing. I’ve grouped
    everything in threes and traced the ground beneath me with
    ancient sand and order: a silent forest of reasons,
    trunk upon trunk. Finally, the skies find a new idea for
    weather: cold, wet fog in the morning and trees no more than

    On Cascade Lake two teals take flight to mark my passing,
    females, wood-hued like the man I met from Pakistan
    who’d lost his wife and told me: One day I will be brilliant.
    I’m studying to know your father. He made no sense
    but led me to believe him with nods and assurance,
    a gaze made sad by the yearn of his twice-forgotten eyes.

    It’s true: the world remembers winter
    the same way darkness comes for my eyes
    on nights I fight to sleep, a winding cloth of cotton
    flecked with the silver fire I cling to
    like the windborne spray of shattered waves,
    so brief, so futile, so soon to be blamed for failing.

    “Finally” won the 2001 Joy Bale Boone Poetry Prize awarded by Wind Magazine.
         Thor Hanson is a writer and naturalist from the Pacific Northwest. After the Peace Corps he lived and studied in Kenya and Tanzania. Hanson’ s articles on travel and natural history appear regularly in periodicals and newspapers, and his poems have been featured in Dog River Review.
         Hanson is the author of
    The Impenetrable Forests, a memoir of his work with Uganda’s endangered mountain gorillas, and he contributed to the forthcoming Wilderness Comes Home: Rewilding the Northeast. Hanson studied ecology and writing at the University of Redlands and received his Masters degree from the University of Vermont’s Field Naturalist Program.