All content copyright 2021 by Jefferson Hansen

Two Poems About My Daughters

 With My Daughter 

               "Ridin' in the moonlight"
                                                   —bluesman Howlin' Wolf

traveling in car
late afternoon moon
with daughter who has
severe autism,
Wolf doing the
howlin' and slidin'
on the car stereo
& I wondering if
the transmission is
going as the car
heaves & lurches
at every beat
only to then notice
the blur that is
my 19-year-old
to the harmonica blast
against the backseat
padding "Wang
wang doodle"

           snails crawl against the stupidity of moonlight
           oak leaves wonder at how jazz can possibly be as thin as they
           a gust buffets & riffles my driving & I whoop with my daughter howlin' 
                                                                                    at The Wolf

"I'll be arouououououound
To see what you're puttin' down"
because nothing matters now
but this dance
I pop & pull on
the gas as she
rams the backseat
with the ferocity
of developmentally disabled
and tell me
I'm not dancing to
"I'll be your
backdoor man" with
my daughter

another gust and we
hear of "Highway 49"
maybe the one Howlin' Wolf
himself rode up from
Mississippi to Chicago
the night his mother
dropped his $500 on
the floor because
she wouldn't accept
money made singing
for the devil

she makes an
unearthly sound
in her singular language
beyond anything the Wolf
could conjure

           Is that hawk above us looking for a disabled mouse?
           What matters against the edge of an afternoon for a molting garter snake?
           Should I get a tattoo of a guitar & the State of Mississippi?

she bawls
something again outside
comprehension & I
turn to see
her eyes have
I don't know why
I never know why
and I will die so

          A moment is the irony of the recent past
          Rhythm is the ecstatic attempt to escape this irony
          "To see what you're puttin' down"

Now she moans with
"The Little Red Rooster
too lazy
to crow for day"
and this night everywhere on earth
will go down as
just another night
of banter & bickering
of shooting &
stiffing &
lazing at a soccer
and for us—
me, my daughter, &
the Wolf's dead voice
serenading from beyond
the grave—
it will be just another
moonlit ride
just another time
where rubber gripped
asphalt & pushed
with the friction of
its own beat

[This poem appeared on Truck Blog on March 2, 2013, thanks to Mary Kasimor and Halvard Johnson]


West River Parkway, Minneapolis, March 12, 2012

            —Stevie Wonder on the car stereo

more wetland
than river or
our own bodies of rivulets and
isles and
islands of organs
kidneys lungs
even skin

“heaven help the black man…
            heaven help the white man if he turns
                        his back away”
                                    —Stevie Wonder

the distances
of us, my daughter,
bridged by water
like these running
to New Orleans
& I know so well
those nerves
beside your mouth
that gnarled

I have been there, too,
                        & with you
            each time you
go there


but you 
have always come through
shocked it into 
at the moment
of crisis

            & do nerves even matter
            at that point

I have failed so many times

                                    these past

but I, too,
have turned nervous
ticks and twitches
into small

the philosopher Kant
speaks of the
as the realization
of our powers
to conceptualize

this river shows me
he goes too far
            but he has a point

you & I together
in some ways
than the slow water