Guest Poet Twyla M. Hansen: Green Apples
We had the good fortune to meet Twyla M. Hansen, the Nebraska State Poet Laureate. While Hansen is a renown poet, and has published over a dozen books and anthologies, she also has a background in agriculture and horticulture. Not only was she raised by a farming family, she also received a master's degree in agroecology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and worked as the grounds manager and arboretum curator at Nebraska Wesleyan University. She currently lives and works in Lincoln, where her wooded acre is maintained as an urban wildlife habitat and was recognized in 1994 by the Mayor’s Landscape Conservation Award. Her poetry struck us as hitting a harmony between the beauty of ecology and the science of agriculture, so we are thrilled that she is willing to let us post some of her poems on our website. This is third of three installments of poetry from Hansen.
Because I want to be my older brother
I do what he tells me,
with saltshaker, in hand-me-downs,
climb behind him up a ladder of limbs
in the run-down orchard, perch at attention
on the opposite side of the trunk, await
orders: apples, tart, inside and out
the shade of early summer.
The newly-feathered pullets, meanwhile,
beaks clipped, eyes blank, clucking
at random for cracked corn and oyster shells
in the dirt below, while
Mother gathers grocery money in the chicken house,
where the dust of feathers and straw and droppings
hangs visible in the air, a pungent haze,
where a few hens huddle over hope in cubicles.
When he says go, we lick and salt,
that first mouthful a bolt through the taste buds,
my brother and I cohorts in a conspiracy of silence.
With a pocket knife he stabs out worm holes,
and because I want to be my older brother
I bite and spit, hoping this will do the trick,
unlock the door to the secret clubhouse, whether in
the attic or on boards nailed into a branch,
notion to be blunted sooner rather than later,
this brother betraying me when my stomach rebels,
knuckles punching my arm silly, Mother saying
if I told you once I told you a thousand times,
there in a tangle of leaves, in a land of feast and famine,
among pears and feeder calves, pines and manure,
sweet clover and silage, under the indifferent farmyard sun
where for a brief lifetime my brother and I were one.
© Twyla M. Hansen, Nebraska State Poet
from Dirt Songs: A Plains Duet (with Linda M. Hasselstrom (2011 The Backwaters Press)
2012 Winner, Nebraska Book Award, Nebraska Center for the Book
2012 Finalist, High Plains Books Award, Billings (MT) Parmly Library
2012 Finalist, WILLA Literary Award, Women Writing the West