Poems from Stars Above, Stars Below by Margaret Hasse

High School Boyfriend

You are home town.

You are all my favorite places

the last summer I grew up.

Every once in a while

I write you

in my head

to ask how Viet Nam

and a big name college

came between us.

We tried to stay in touch

through the long distance,

the hum and fleck of phone calls.

It was inevitable

that I should return

to the small prairie town

and find you

pumping gas, driving a truck, measuring lumber,

and we’d exchange weather talk,

never be able to break through words

and time to say simply:

Are you as happy 

as I wanted you to be?

And still I am stirred

by musky cigarette smoke

on a man’s brown suede jacket.

Never having admitted the tenderness

of your hands, I feel them now

through my skin.

Parking on breezy nights,

in cars, floating passageways,

we are tongue and tongue like warm cucumbers.

I would walk backwards 

along far country roads

through late evenings, cool as moving water,

heavy as red beer,

to climb into that August.

In the dark lovers’ lanes,

you touched my face

and found me here.

        © Margaret Hasse

        Stars Above, Stars Below, New Rivers Press, 1984

My Mother’s Lullaby

When my mother

smelling of milk and bread

brushes the long robe of my hair,

the vines spring roses.

We wake in a white bed

floating with feather pillows.

Morning patterns her face.

She curls me in her arms;

she is a seashell,

pale and full of song.

And now I come to tuck

my little mother into bed.

I am too young to be empty-armed

and the weeds in my throat

will not let me sing lullabies.

Waiting has teeth in it.

My mother smiles at me

and wraps around herself.

I won’t see her cry;

her wheat body does not even shake.

She will not know

how echoes return.

Silent tears are turquoise

peacock feathers which tickle

and the hyena in me laughs,

crazy, crazy.

And my mother

on her thin shelved bed

hears the dogs move restlessly.

There is a clack of their nails

on linoleum.

She knows they have come for her,

She whimpers, they whimper.

Soon there will be no one

to tell what I was like

when I was a child.

        © Margaret Hasse

        Stars Above, Stars Below, New Rivers Press, 1984

A new edition of Stars Above, Stars Below, Margaret’s first book with an Introduction by Athena Kildegaard, has been reissued by Nodin Press.

Reflections on Margaret Hasse’s Stars Above, Stars Below

by Margot Galt on the publication of the new edition here.