Pauletta Hansel and Richard Hague
RICHARD HAGUE is the author of fourteen collections of poetry, most recently Studied Days: Poems Early and Late in Appalachia (Dos Madres Press, 2017), which explores the geographical, cultural, social and artistic contexts of his Appalachian life. Dick taught for forty-five years at an inner-city high school in Cincinnati, and is now Writer-in-Residence at Thomas More College.
PAULETTA HANSEL is Cincinnati’s Poet Laureate. Her most recent book is Palindrome (Dos Madres Press, 2017), a collection of poems and prose pieces written in response to her mother’s dementia. Pauletta is managing editor of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, the literary publication of Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative.
Publication of both Studied Days and Palindrome were funded in part by the Ohio Arts Council.
Word of Mouth Cincinnati, which began in January 2014, is co-hosted by fellow writers Jim Palmarini and Mark Flanigan.It was founded in memory of the late Aralee Strange who, after many years living, writing and producing work in the Cincinnati area, moved to Athens, Georgia where she co-founded Athens Word of Mouth.
WoMC is an intentional arc of both past and future utterance, inspired by our most revered voice, with a nod to her Athens, GA compatriots. Word of Mouth asks poets to Show Up, Mouth Off and Pay Attention.
Admission to Word of Mouth Cincinnati is free and open to all ages, although some content may contain adult themes and language. MOTR Pub 1345 Main Street Cincinnati, OH 45202.
Attending his evening fires
in tall museums of smoke
he marked the difference in perfume
between sassafras and pitch pine,
oak and Norway maple.
He was an expert in something
no one else he knew
Thus his nights were long.
He slept in sheets
that reeked of campfire smoke:
aboard his old green chair
for hours toward midnight
he sat just upslope from the flames,
night’s turns and swirls of breeze
wrapping him in scent he carried,
in place of a bride,
After a night of white cold stars,
he would see first smoke from his
far neighbor’s stove:
thin, still languorous,
it lay low along the hollow,
pale blue hammock for dawn to stretch out on
then slip from, slowly, into the woods.
Smoke was not a ghost, though something like.
Not spirit, exhaled from the sizzle of beech or pine,
nor evening’s exhalation, though something like.
He imagined it was thought, or
versions of local history,
released by heat and air--
or weather brought close,
some quiet storm of place’s mind,
there before him
where he could study it.
The Real Story
No one tells you how old you’ll be someday, old enough to be mother to your mother. Your father, meanwhile, left the party early, before the need for pulling down the rafters, boxing the whole thing up—ash now in his own last box, died with his last book sliding out of his lap, and it’s come down to you to figure out the real story—did the flu shot really give her the flu that year, you away living your child-free, parent-free life, and somebody wants to know, now she’s in a nursing home, pulling off her shoes, putting them on again. She still knows enough to know there is no sense—nonsense—in this, she still can laugh as you bend to slip the left one back on over the sock, pink from the wash, you have labeled with her name. Nobody said you would watch as the flesh from which your flesh was made dissolves away.
Her loss, your gain: all she will not eat congregates beneath your skin and you grown wide enough for both of you, large enough to hold her, your body curves its own pieta for a mother there and not. No one said your hand will push what food she’ll take between her pressed lips, your hand will be the one rubbing her head as she sits on the toilet forgetting why she is there, push it out, mommy, let it go. No one says how long it takes, or what is lost along the way, how you forget how to be daughter and only know right now, right now, the way she does. No one says the pain is not forgetting, but remembering.
Pauletta Hansel Palindrome (Dos Madres Press, 2017)