Fall 2023, Volume 35

Poetry by Justin Hamm

In southern Minnesota tonight, the rain

finally ceases to pound in sheets upon
the clay-colored silos sidled up to the red barns,
and the sunlight through the clouds lays
a thin, golden skin across the wet earth.

In the parking lot adjacent to our hotel
four southern Minnesota boys lean
against the tailgate of a beat up Ford,
bearded and ball-capped, each of them,
burly and big-necked, too, their beers tall,
their cheeks broad and red and ruddy.
Their youth and unrestrained joy
provoke in me a minor jealousy.

After a bit, one boy steps aside,
amid curses and good-natured crudeness,
to take a phone call on his cell.
When he returns, the dance of panic begins—
bottles scatter, doors slam, the engine
sparks into action with a dry hack-hack-cough,
and now they are off, whether to meet with
or to make a tragedy I do not know.

In truth, friends, there are few things
I do know in southern Minnesota tonight.
Perhaps, if I am honest, only this one.
It is good to be young and healthy,
bearded and drinking, except when
it is better to be older and fatter
and soberer with an unavailable number.

Half the things I own

I would never give away
But would feel intense relief
If they were stolen

To that list you could
Probably add the past
The way it pains me
But also draws me
Back toward it

How rarely it ever
Gets up off its ass
And does anything of use

To any burgeoning thieves:
I recommend coating it
In something sticky 
That way it might at least
Keep the flies of eternity
From buzzing around the room




BIO: Justin Hamm is the author of four collections of poetry–Drinking Guinness With the Dead, The Inheritance, American Ephemeral, and Lessons in Ruin—as well as two poetry chapbooks. His poems, stories, photos, and reviews have appeared in Nimrod, River Styx, Southern Indiana Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Sugar House Review, and a host of other publications. Justin is a 2022 Woody Guthrie Poet and 2014 Stanley Hanks Prize winner. His solo poetry/photography show Midwestern featured in numerous galleries in 2019 and early 2020. In 2022 he delivered a TEDx talk on poetry in the region, and in 2019 his poem “Goodbye, Sancho Panza” was studied by 50,000 students worldwide as part of the World Scholar’s Cup Curriculum.