Two Poems by Jack Hanson
The Real Show
Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
— Deuteronomy 30:11-14
Perhaps there was pressure building up, but I felt none.
I was as light
and as free as anyone facing
the light might be. It made the bridge
look spectacular. A god
or at least some ancient idol,
set in stark relief against the sky,
which was soaked with unreleased rain.
Crowds gathered to watch. They dispersed when it fell.
Then you were somehow with me, and I was
thinking that that had been the whole
point, that they had missed
the real show. Of course, it is never
the rain as it falls; it’s the breaking
open of the sky, the release
of all that terrible tension.
We need both sides to get the full
sense of things. We can’t understand relief
without suffering dread, or
at least some anxious anticipation.
But recall that even I
had only seen the second half,
which seemed like a sun shower
for one illumined little minute.
I had been watching the light
and its object, unaware of the mounting
event. My umbrella was folded
at home and hidden beneath some neglected
bench. If I had heard the forecast
I had presently forgotten.
So I stood sodden and quite surprised
to see the sunlight through the storm,
the whole of everything at hand.
Now, if it hadn’t happened like this,
it would have been something else.
I must try to remember, idealist
that I am, that the world is one
of ideas only to us. Otherwise,
it’s all water of one kind or another.
All matter and actions divine.
You turn, like a flake
in the air, away
from the house. Ash drifts
form. Something will grow,
something will take shape,
become part of what
once was, will again be.
You insist that this takes time
and that no good can come
of standing and watching
and that this may, in fact, do harm.
And you insist, when I ask
about your love of the place,
that the love is in the leaving,
in the letting be, the letting fall
of the wood burned white.
how the flakes turn in the air
away from the house
and toward it, and scatter
and reform in drifts
of paper snow.
I keep asking.
And you, I love you,
you keep answering. But I don’t
understand, though I try to. Is it like
rain, turning from one thing
to another in a cycle? Or is it
like the blood pumping
through both our bodies,
entirely the same and wholly distinct?
It is like ash, you say, turning again
and lingering on.
About the Author
Jack Hanson is a doctoral candidate in Religious Studies at Yale University. His writing has appeared recently in Artforum, The Baffler, Commonweal, Gawker and Lapham’s Quarterly. He lives in Brooklyn. You can find him on Twitter @j_ckh_ns_n
Detail from Yassine Khalfalli: Cambridge, MA, USA, 2021 (Unsplash).