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Nels Hanson


Nels Hanson grew up on a small farm in the San Joaquin Valley of California 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, 12, and 2014. Poems have appeared in Word Riot, Oklahoma Review, Pacific Review and other magazines and have received a 2014 Pushcart nomination, Sharkpack Review’s 2014 Prospero Prize, and 2015 and 2016 Best of the Net nominations.


What you plan to do and what
you do join two sides of a coin
fallen on edge and twirling until
it slows and wobbles, tips and

lands revealing one of your twin
faces, a winner surprised, loser
fate’s indentured servant, heads
your eyes open with eagle’s far

gaze, tails the visage wearing
blindfold, last cigarette placed
in trembling lips before the call
to fire. Steps you take to fame

stop you in a line where other
strangers wait on soup, crust to
sop what’s left when phantom
of your hope escapes in steam.

Your backward tumble on icy
street finds you in front to lead
the parade, drum major backed
by horns and woodwinds now

at an order executing complex
maneuver to spell your name
to cheering stadium. At times
your tuber sprouts downward

lost years in dark until Spring
in China it emerges a towering
redwood bearing tons of apples.
Or the brass ring in easy reach

from your green mount circling
the carousel slips around your
neck as hooded someone slaps
the charger’s rump. Win, lose,

half dollar alloyed with milled
copper rim somersaults, a black
horse weathervane blown from
big red barn, set cartwheeling

across cornfields, checkerboard
where white house stands intact,
another explodes equally toward
every square and compass point.

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