I live and and work in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I began writing poems when I was a child, inspired by my mother, Gladys Hasse, who also wrote poetry. My most recent collection is Earth’s Appetite, my fourth, which was published in 2013. Two poems from the book were read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac. For more information, visit me at www.MargaretHasse.com.
at breakfast, I was asking
my little boy in his highchair
if he wanted his banana
monkey or moon style?
I cut and he stacked slices
of soft fruit on his tray.
By noon, it seems, he was spending
his days in grade school sharpening
his number 2 lead pencils
and learning to read.
In the afternoon, he threw back
his shoulders to body surf a noisy wave
of high school freshman
into a cavernous building
he exited wearing a black cape
and a mortarboard.
At supper, he revealed a tattoo
kept under wraps
from his father and me
until it finished healing.
By nightfall, he had a real job
earning money for college.
Just yesterday, he was learning
to say bye-bye and this morning,
he’s moved out of his bedroom
into a dorm, leaving behind dusty
tennis trophies, too-small T-shirts,
the statue of a bear playing trumpet,
and a downhearted dog for his parents
to walk during the unoccupied eons
of time before us now he’s gone.
-from Earth's Appetite
A Breeze Bends the Grasses
the kind my father picked
and brought to his lips to blow
the sound of a startled bird –
the cry his heart must have made
when he drove himself far
from us time and again.
Teach me, teach me
to make music
from plain grass.
Father showed me the way
to stretch a blade between thumbs,
to whistle a lone note.
He said: That’s it! Good,
coaching me to climb a scale,
hit high notes,
practicing a melody
he could not compose.
Why did I think all these years
only of how he was distant,
and not of how he placed
his hands around mine
praying with me a green song?
-from Milk and Tides
Life in Reverse
What if life were designed for us to arrive
when we’re ancient, then grow younger –
that would be a better plan.
If we start out as elders in our eighties
or nineties and change toward youth,
when our knees start working again
like well-oiled latches to a gate,
we don’t protest gray hair or difficult digging
in the ragbag of memory for the right word.
When we become seventy years old, we’re elated
that our bodies are as spry as they are
for we’ve passed down from real decrepitude.
We know what old age wrought –
disabilities, diapers, disease.
That’s over now; we look forward
to decades of vitality.
We enter our sixties, that marvelous epoch
of activity, when we are now known
for something, when people see us as fluid,
not finished with our changes.
The driver’s license we relinquished is back
in our hands; we take only occasional naps,
are into long walks, road trips and good works,
have decent teeth, most foods agree with us.
Our fifties – a really dreamy time.
Love making is not effort anymore.
Our flesh, though somewhat loose,
is more elastic than it used to be.
We cherish the work we do, whatever it is –
making things, going to meetings – because
we didn’t get to do these things
back when we were eighty.
When stuck on the freeway,
we sing along to the radio.
When we grow back to forty,
we wear tighter, shorter clothes.
We can’t get enough of color and travel.
As we build new rooms in our life,
we work on being generous because
we recall our old age when we appreciated
visitors at the nursing home, even if
they were the sons of the neighbors’ son.
Thirty: ecstatically thirty, even with our struggles,
maybe the marriage isn’t ideal,
and we have to move a few times, but
it’s all experience, experience, and we thrive
on our power to learn.
In our twenties, we look down at our bodies
amazed how they shine with youth,
the flesh springy and firm
like a forest floor under pine trees.
We like sex outside, or on a table.
We welcome work and opportunities.
Next comes adolescence,
the best and worst of times,
because we felt so much
and knew so little.
But our past maturity gives
our teenage years ballast.
Now it’s only the best of times.
We consistently make great decisions.
We learn to play the flute,
we show kindness to ourselves and our parents.
We are avid about education, we use birth control.
We enjoy in all ways our brief, splendid blooming.
When we get into grade school,
the great sex we used to have
when we were older is now
yucky to even think about.
Our parents tower over us.
Candy tastes delicious.
Playing kick-ball all afternoon,
what could be better?
We love our mother’s voice
murmuring, her perfume,
the way stars are brighter
than they’ve ever been.
We can fall asleep anywhere
opening our hearts to dream,
and we wake up smaller,
believing in the stories
where animals talk.
And then we are losing language,
but playing with all the toes on our feet.
And someone is usually holding us
and it feels so good to suck.
When we slide into the birth canal,
there’s an agreeable sensation
of being drawn from a place
big and bright that made us cry
into a cozy padded cave
where we rest with our ears
pressed to the pulse of a universe.
Then we are stilled with a lullaby
before lullabies had sound.
-from Milk and Tides
©2015 Margaret Hasse