Nels Hanson: “Song to No Music”

Song to No Music

As a boy he yearned to sing only songs
of praise but now his words all sound
like broken requiems. Even the spring
leaves wave goodbye as country roads

turn to rushing arteries supplying nutrients
for a spreading unmentionable disease.
Listen to the lilies’ white trumpets play
their dirge and see the yellow poppies

among red rocks show a scarlet stain
as if the stones were bleeding. Something
in us is catching. “When was it, about
1956, when you passed a stranger on

the sidewalk and said hello and that
person didn’t answer back?” Kerouac
asked once. The year is now 2018 and
things are stranger since hate elected

its king president. Today my wife said
she’d just learned something she didn’t
know before–the octopus has three
hearts, two to pump its blue-green blood

to gills to breathe, the third to circulate
blood to the body, eight legs. I couldn’t
help but answer, “That’s three more
hearts than many people have.” Those

words make no tune. Better to be silent
like the dazed grass along the roadside
after a semi passes and the stalks stand
still as soldiers after a fearful battle.


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, 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.

1 thought on “Nels Hanson: “Song to No Music”

  1. I like the feel of the Southwest in this poem: “white trumpets play / their dirge and see the yellow poppies / among red rocks”. —The sound of a semi passing by—even the Kerouac reference gives a nod to the open road. The three-hearted octopus is a great metaphor that brings it to the now. “Better to be silent” the grasses say. Good advice. But, impossible to keep, as the poet himself says it all too loud.


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