Dark Mirror

by Nels Hanson

Toward August sundown in California
my grandmother’s mirror her mother’s
people brought by wagon from Arkansas

to New Mexico we lifted down carefully
from its nail on our small farm just south
of Fresno in the San Joaquin. Outside we

laid it gently in the grass so it reflected
orange, scarlet, rose, a green, last deepest
blue before the sun had forgotten Earth.

We watched Evening Star slant across
its flat pane as darkness flowed like ink
and stars one by one then sudden stars

in clusters filled the black oblong of sky
soon catching flash of meteor, blinking
red, green lights of planes and airliners

passing planets and nearly disappearing
in the Milky Way, captured Valley night
spread at our bare feet. We fell asleep on

folding chairs and in the morning turned
away from sunrise, flaring bonfire of glass
among blazing spears of lawn, and lifted

its golden heat and took it in and hung it
once more in its place, a basin filled with
water from a spring. The mirror accepted

the sofa, maple coffee table with magazines,
blue jay crossing the picture window, falling
loquat leaf, four white camellias in a crystal

vase until dark came on again and we sat in
the unlit living room and counted single early
stars arriving just before their constellations.

Nels Hanson has worked as a farmer, teacher and contract writer/editor. His fiction received the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award, Pushcart Prize nominations in 2010, 2012 and 2014, and has appeared in Antioch Review, Black Warrior Review, Southeast Review and other journals. This poem was originally published in Works & Days and is about his grandmother’s people who left the South after the Civil War. His great-grandfather had been a 14-year-old spy for the Confederacy and was wounded in the bottom by a Union captain’s saber as he made an escape from an inn. Later, he came to the rescue of Hanson’s great-grandmother’s wagon train attacked by Indians in New Mexico.

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