All content copyright 2021 by Jefferson Hansen


in the summer walking down a residential street of two-story homes built in the 50s a little luxurious for the time but not too much a crow feasts on the carcass of a squirrel probably run over by a car as I get closer the crow speaks in a language I don’t realize I know and tells me to walk into a small cabin-like house set back from the road I try to respond in the language but find I can only make squeaks and grunts the crow tilts its head and looks at me oddly squirrel blood on its beak then it goes back to its feast


to be mute

in the language

of the streets

you are on

is to be both

of the streets

and off them


crows caw

they don’t


and boss people


was extraordinary



is a confluence

of habit

and luck


I feel compelled to obey the crow and walk up a narrow cement path to the house and without hesitating walk right in part of me worries about getting hurt by the occupant but nobody is there the shades are pulled and it is dim and dusty boxes are strewn about as if a hoarder lives there the only sound is the squeak of chipmunks



may be wiser

about living

within the means

of their habitat


if a language

sings a world

into being

I could not

carry this 

one’s tunes


from outside

the house

I could dimly hear

a caw-caw-caw


in one of the dusty boxes is a bunch of rusting wagon wheels in another some pots caked with old food the cardboard seems old and weak the dust suggests it has all been sitting there for a long time a door appears to open onto a small room in the back I go there but as soon as I get to the doorway that room expands to the size of the one I am leaving and it too is filled with old decaying boxes in one are empty picture frames in another a bunch of shirt hangars all the while chipmunks squeak


hoarding is a disease

of consumer society

made possible

only by such

an arrangement


the remnants

of former greed

can never

be pretty


there is never enough

storage to keep

the economy

at full employment


in that dim room I notice another small room toward the back I go there and again upon reaching the doorway the new room expands to the size of the two I had already explored and in that room are wooden crates filled with old records piled high the windows remain shaded and it is dark the albums are old Sinatra Ellington Mathis Doris Day chipmunks squeak and I can hear them scurrying amid the crates


to refind a culture

is to learn how lost

it already is


Sinatra today

would not sound

the same

as he did to the ears

of the 50s


how can material

expand and expand

into the blankness

of space


a doorway in the back of this room opens onto some rickety stairs going down to the basement dimly lit by small windows it too is filled with old dusty boxes this time filled with books one has the Sally Dick and Jane books I learned to read on Superman comic books hardcover Moby Dick with $1.50 stamped on the cover it all smells musty on a workbench next to an attached vice grip a chipmunk faces me and says in the same language the crow used that this expanding building with its boxes of junk "is your mind all your mind" I can’t say anything in return


why should I believe

anything a chipmunk says

in a language not my own

but strangely familiar


what is a chipmunk

after all



they live in tunnels

they burrow in lawns

and the forest floor

they must like


it’s home

for them


I walk back up the stairs and into a pristine kitchen with a small table topped with formica and chairs with red vinyl padding a woman with a permanent and wearing a house dress appears and says in the new language “I bet one of the chipmunks said this building is your mind well it’s not it’s my mind” she laughs and says “sit down it’s time to eat we’re having pork” I sit at the kitchen table and she puts a plate fork and meat cleaver such as a butcher uses in front of me “it’s almost ready” but I smell nothing she bustles over to the stove and pulls out a pan with the carcass of a small pig in it and places it before me it is an uncooked body with the skin still on “dig in” she says “dig in” I look over at her and she turns translucent then fades away entirely


eating cooked

food is the prerogative

of only one species

and its



some say the now

unneeded human appendix

was used to digest

raw meat but this

is controversial


if the chipmunk

were lying

as the woman says

the woman

may be lying too

as may have

the crow


I walk into the next room which has an old black and white tv and an orange couch and a vinyl easy chair it looks 50s I sit down in the easy chair to try to recover out the open window I notice it is now winter and snowy a man slowly materializes on the couch he is my dead grandfather only he is decades younger than when I knew him he had yet to go bald and his hair was just starting to grey around the temples “you’re in my home from the 50s” he says in English “in a way you were already born then because the conditions that would become you were set though you were ten years away from formally entering there is no real beginning there was no big bang nothing comes from nothing all has antecedents all is transformation this is true of you and I never died I just changed as all things change what we call 'the beginning' is just an arbitrary line drawn in ongoing transformation and the same is true of anything we call 'the end'”


I so want

to talk

to him but

I can still

only squawk

and grunt


to be able

to only hear


is to feel




perhaps I am

the 50s

though I never

lived then

I carry it

around in me


my grandfather slowly turns translucent and fades away the couch is empty I open the outside door onto a fall day high elm trees are dropping their leaves I walk out to the sidewalk and cars with fins from the 50s pass suddenly I hear again that language the crow and chipmunk spoke it takes me a while to realize it is an elm tree I translate its speech “we will all die of Dutch elm disease just as all you will die someday this street of the 50s bare of its elms will be depopulated and the houses will wither and decay under the sun and rain with no humans to maintain them chipmunks and rats and roaches will live there I say this from the voice of the wind through my branches the water coursing up my trunk the sun falling harmlessly on my brown leaves I do not speak from any sense of myself disease is coming is here already”


I search up

into the splaying

branches of the elm

looking for

signs of disease


then I think

of all the viruses

my immune

system is killing

right this moment


in that new language

I hear seemingly

from the clouds

above the stretched

limbs of the elms

“this is the 50s

you are not yet born

you are a ghost

before your time

a mere



I continue walking under the elms and try my voice again “can I speak now” I say in English it comes out clear as a bell then all goes dark and silent “what is happening what is happening” I ask and the new language answers in the creaky voice of an old woman “you are not yet you are not yet I am ancient ancient ancient I have Alzheimer’s Alzheimer’s” 

    all is darkness

    and total quiet