The Grey Champion

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.

The Grey Champion

Years the Bromosa plum orchard
roared a week in February, an avid
bee at each closely petalled white
blossom and the trees’ curled edges

of scaled bark lifting corners of one
parchment eager to unroll its praise.
In fierce March wind from the sea
green leaves became rippling flags,

banners of Earth’s true only country.
Nature’s good slow time spilled from
your palm past spread fingers, loam
falling in an hourglass never empty

before you discovered in this world
the clocks have just a second hand.
Who is the watchmaker? That line
of men diminishing like dominoes

into shading distance beyond light
and the last French horn’s plaintive
reveille? Things we build go wrong
until far off two silver pans shiver,

scale’s balance tips after centuries,
tilted crosspiece a descending blade
of the guillotine named for a doctor
who thought it kind. My displeased

parents gone before this fatal season –
now our psychopath is our president –
quoted often, “The mills of the gods
turn slowly but grind exceedingly

fine.” Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote
a story, a fairy tale, called “The Grey
Champion,” about an immortal hero
who arrives down through history

when our republic is endangered,
all hope vanished. I’m listening
for hoof beats of his horse along
aisles of blooms new snow envies

even after pollinating bees move
on and flowers drift down and turn
the flowing furrows to white roads
as pump water carries them away.

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