I Have Known Men

by Patrick Hansel

Graciela Echenique, age 20
Birmingham, Alabama
August 3, 1924

I have known men built like railroads:
Steel, steam, the whistle warning all
Flesh to stay away. I have known men
Made like rivers that run wild and cold
In the spring, that meander through
The bottomlands, that dry up and desert
The life they carry along. I have known
Men fashioned like pistols: the less
Said of them the better. I once met
A man I swear was made of butter:
One taste and his flesh melted away.

I have known men who claimed to be
Preachers, healers, truth-tellers,
Fortune-tellers, bank robbers, grave
Robbers, supermen, front men,
Side men, salesmen, highway men,

A man’s man and man’s gift to God,
But I have never met a man
Who would not lie to get out of love,
Nor a man who would not steal
To satisfy whatever hunger held him
Down. Down in the dumps. Down
In the depths where there is no coal,
No gold and no soul. I have never
Known a man who wasn’t afraid
Of dying, who didn’t think killing
Was a way to conquer that fear.

Musical composition by Victor David Sandiego

Patrick Hansel has published poems in over 20 journals and anthologies, including Hawai’i Pacific Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Passager, The Ilanot Review and The Meadowland Review. He was selected for the 2008-09 Mentor Series in Poetry at the Loft Literary Center in Minnesota, and was a 2011 Minnesota State Arts Board Grantee. His novella Searching was serialized in 33 issues of The Alley News.