ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Nels Hanson


Once there was Rabbit Knowledge,
Deer and Elk Knowledge, Eagle, Buffalo

Knowledge, Grizzly Bear Knowledge
and Rattler and Woodchuck and Teal,

Mallard and Goose Knowledge, Pine,
Grass, Stone, Black and White Cloud

Knowledge, Snow and Rain, Spring,
Summer, Autumn and Cold Winter

Knowledge. There was Child and
Woman and Man and Grandmother

Knowledge, Smoke Knowledge rising
from the Pipe, Peyote Knowledge

and Sweat Lodge Knowledge, Living,
Dying and Rebirth Knowledge, Shape

Shifter Knowledge. Once Everything
was Knowledge. To find your place

you had to look and listen to read
the Book of Knowledge the Great Spirit

wrote without words but with Earth
and Sky, Lightening Strike and Prairie

Fire, Blue River where Salmon return
to their Stream with Sea, Salt, Whale,

Shark Knowledge, that Waves rise, fall
forever with Knowledge of the Moon.




The two black swans
on the pond dip their long necks
into a box of dry food on the bank

to turn many times, feeding
one, then another and another
of the hungry coy splashing,  

lifting 10 wide eager mouths
from roiling water. The polar
bear doesn’t lunge and swallow

the husky but keeps petting
the sitting dog’s sleek fur.
A singed golden retriever

drags the sleeping human
baby from the flaming house,
the jay like a unicorn’s horn

perches between the fawn’s
raised ears, alert for biting
fleas and ticks. The gray tabby

nurses the abandoned tiger
until the sleepy cub purrs and
lies down with its stripes.




I thought once if you tied
in the morning a stick or flowing
pen to the dog’s rear leg or tail
by evening the random trail he left

would draw a mandala, a pattern
to explain life and death, all
mysteries that opened like a door
you could enter to another

world. I believe a flight of doves
brings an urgent message, their
wing-beats whispered words
I can follow to a blooming tree

as they light and begin to coo
a song from last night’s dream.
The coyote’s moon-lit howl from
the blue gum grove reminds me

a life ago at the old theater in
Porterville I saw Conan Doyle’s
“The Hound of the Baskervilles.”
I watch the chain of red ants

bearing strips of leaves or live
aphids down the raised circle’s
spiral stair to a red winged queen
waiting in the dark on her throne

of molded sand. The quail’s
sudden call reminds me to hide
in tall grass as the hunter
approaches with streamers of

sour air and thunder of crashing
boots. Frightened I crack
a walnut shell to wake and free
wise Merlin from his sleep.


Author 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.

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