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About this poet

Twyla M. Hansen was raised in northeast Nebraska. She received a BS and an MAg from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

Hansen is the author of several poetry collections, including Rock • Tree • Bird (The Backwaters Press, 2017); Dirt Songs: A Plains Duet (The Backwaters Press, 2011), which she cowrote with Linda M. Hasselstrom and which received the 2012 Nebraska Book Award and was a finalist for the 2012 High Plains Book Award and 2012 WILLA Literary Award; Potato Soup (The Backwaters Press, 2003), winner of the 2004 Nebraska Book Award; and In Our Very Bones (Slow Tempo Press, 1997).

In 2013, Hansen was selected as the Nebraska state poet, a position she will hold through 2018. She is also the recipient of a Mayor’s Landscape Conservation Award for her work creating an urban wildlife habitat. Hansen lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Selected Bibliography

Rock • Tree • Bird (The Backwaters Press, 2017)
Dirt Songs: A Plains Duet (The Backwaters Press, 2011)
Prairie Suite: A Celebration (Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center, 2006)
Potato Soup (The Backwaters Press, 2003)
In Our Very Bones (Slow Tempo Press, 1997)
How to Live in the Heartland (Flatwater Editions, 1992)


Picture him amid the rust—hand tools, jars of screws,
bolts, half-useful wrenches—assembling miniature farm
wagons, windmills, trains, as if one day he would return.

And return he does—in the various and sundry nails,
boxes of brads, wood scraps, lengths of wire thick
with dust—as the waste not want not farmer.

Which fills you with regret: not spending more time,
not listening, not facing what you could not save.

Now, you empty the pegboard of worn saw blades,
the calendar with pig photos and corny quotes, toss
handles, staples, hinges, caulk, tape, string, metal, and

weep, knowing this is as close as you will ever be to him,
his world reduced to tinkering alone down in this city cave,
touching what his rough hands touched, his curiosities,

your father under a bare bulb sawing pieces of his last
unfinished project, a sea-faring ship, its instructions and
pattern carefully numbered and folded—the glued, carved,

and sanded basswood—as if he sensed this full-blown
final creation might help him sail across that ancient sea.

 From Rock * Tree * Bird (The Backwaters Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Twyla Hansen. Used with the permission of the author.

 From Rock * Tree * Bird (The Backwaters Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Twyla Hansen. Used with the permission of the author.

Twyla M. Hansen

Twyla M. Hansen is the author of several poetry collections, including Dirt Songs: A Plains Duet (The Backwaters Press, 2011). She lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.

by this poet


—Daniel Freeman, first to file claim, Jan. 1, 1863

Here, an abundance of trees, stream, prairie—
enough to sustain a family, prove up this plot of land,
the first of thousands to be claimed across America.

Place that was first inhabited by natives, lodge-


Adult: I have trouble falling asleep at night.
Child: But don’t you close your eyes?

The art of sleep isn’t tough for those who have the gift—
they're puzzled at the rest of us with trouble in the night.

And during the day, that tumbling sensation, anxious,


When you leave it will be empty:
dried leaves on gray-haired limbs,
clumps of gooseberry minus the berries.

Tracks across frozen water will lead
to a frigid channel,
springs seeping away from the source,
snow-covered hills reminding us
of the rolling, frozen sea.

The sun,