Two Poems

by Nels Hanson

At Attention

The homeless man about 45
wore soldier’s floppy canvas
jungle hat, his shifting station
three street corners, juggling

always a green rubber ball to
keep the hours, his large one-
beaded rosary. Today he dons
white but stained black-billed

naval ensign’s cap perhaps a
stranger purchased years ago –
pawnshop or Goodwill – my
sentinel recovered likely from

the trash. I pass this morning’s
watch without a wave, instead
with a crisp salute to thank our
captain steering for safe harbor.

Night Watch

At the rehab hospital in the room
next door to my wife recovering

from malpractice the aged air force
colonel with Alzheimer’s shouted

five times in worried expectation
before the night nurse Bryan whose

father suffered from dementia in
another facility in a distant town

reassured the frightened officer all
the squadron’s fighters were home,

safe and on the ground, sky clear
empty blue, and then turned quickly

for the kitchen as the man ordered,
“Coffee! I need coffee immediately.”

Sometimes his planes aren’t overdue
but 20 puppies missing, maybe lost.


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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