Looking For The Sleeping Child | Nels Hanson


A Montana legend describes a Sleeping Child
Monster like the one in Scotland’s Loch Ness,
a blue long-necked swimming dinosaur. Carved
pine models and racks of postcards crowd
the fancy lobby of the Lakeview Inn. An easel
displays a portrait of a smiling finned plesiosaur
plowing through fog it wears like a white scarf
above a sunken kingdom with schools of trout
and sparkling chests of rubies and doubloons.
For $20 you can rent all day a boat with special
underwater periscope for spotting the big-eyed
serpent and lost sandstone city professors say
Indians never occupied, stairways and windowed
domes, towers and crescent bridges all natural,
cut by water and once maybe wind. They don’t
believe the lake will go away, uphill to Moose
Lake and the Old People return home when
the Sleeping Child wakes and rises, rides his
reed basket in time to save our dying world
and animals he grieves for in his awful dream.
Sportsmen and local residents claim they’ve seen
the famished creature toward dusk, gray mist
dropping low above the water acid green as sea
inside an island reef. The flat cloud settles just
over your head, in all directions the sky grows
narrow and sound carries an eerie incredibly far
distance. The hills and circle of higher mountains
make an echo chamber. Above the boat’s motor
I listened to two voices, not words but the rhythm
of speech and asked Emma if she heard them too
as I turned from the clear deep lake and spotlight’s
beam searching for the son she was certain was
her own. Past her black hair and worried pretty
face waiting for good news I saw a mile away
on the rocky shore men like two dark sparrows
ready to fly if the monster breached and roared.

Nels Hanson has worked as a farmer, teacher, and contract writer/editor. He graduated from UC Santa Cruz and the U of Montana and his fiction received the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award. His stories have appeared in Antioch Review, Texas Review, Black Warrior Review, Southeast Review, Montreal Review, and other journals. “Now the River’s in You,” which appeared in Ruminate Magazine, was nominated for a 2010 Pushcart Prize, and “No One Can Find Us,” in Ray’s Road Review, has been nominated for the 2012 Pushcart Prizes. Poems have appeared in Poetry Porch, Atticus Review, Red Booth Review, Meadowlands Review, Emerge Literary Review, Jellyfish Whispers, and other magazines.

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