Hayley Mitchell Haugen
ISBN: 978-1-59948-697-0, 86 pages, $14
Release Date: September 5, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-59948-697-0, 86 pages, $14
Release Date: September 5, 2018
Hayley Mitchell Haugen holds a Ph.D. in American Literature from Ohio University and an MFA in poetry from the University of Washington. An Associate Professor of English at Ohio University Southern, she teaches composition, American literature, and creative writing. Her poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Chiron Review, Poetry Northwest, Rattle, Spillway and many other journals. Haugen has one chapbook, What the Grimm Girl Looks Forward To (Finishing Line Press, 2016) and edits Sheila-Na-Gig online and Sheila-Na-Gig Editions.
Memory dwells in jagged-edge snapshots and the distant aura of Lemon Pledge in Hayley Mitchell Haugen’s Light & Shadow, Shadow & Light. Her poems dwell in the coming of age, hinge of madness, dark stories and dreams. Her work enters the forest, finds there themes and motifs of ominous myth, fairy and cautionary tales, and leaves behind a scattering of found trinkets along the breadcrumb trail home. –Kersten Christianson, Something Yet to Be Named
Hayley Mitchell Haugen’s profound collection of poems will linger, haunt and stay with you. Through lyrical language, Haugen becomes a masterful storyteller conveying the human experience through a voice of ache, loss, insight and love. Her words pull us in and we feel vulnerable yet empowered by them. We want to keep Hayley’s poems close, to know something more than we did before, ‘to make this space inside’ for Light & Shadow, Shadow & Light. –Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas, author of Hasty Notes in No Particular Order
This heartwarming collection covers life’s journey of small catastrophes “seeking us out”: divorce, aging, illness, death, and more. Through keen observation, Hayley Mitchell Haugen conveys the need for touch and closure “before everything is burned or buried,” or reduced to mere statistic. With love, we see women standing up to male counterparts, and wistful celebration of sons that grow up too fast. Through lights of the universal, this worthy assemblage finds hope within dark corners. –Gary Glauber, author of Small Consolations and Worth the Candle
In Anchorage, Mom calls down into the basement,
rushing me from play with the new kitten in the crook
beneath the stairs. Nana waits on the landing,
tapping her foot like a schoolyard noon-aide
before she scoots me out the door. No kiss from Dad?
And why the hurry? It is summer. It will stay light
through evening. Maybe
this is the day we go to Earthquake Park,
famous since 1963: kids slide down concrete Vs
fallen inward from the once busy street; they teeter
on boulders, totter on the thick limbs of upturned evergreens,
swing on tires rigged up in old frames of houses. Nana says
it’s a reminder from Mother Nature, warns me
not to go face-first down anything. Maybe
I come home to Daddy putting trunks in the car.
He takes me upstairs where my sister twists soggy holes
in a pink Kleenex. Mom and Dad are divorced, she says,
and we can’t find the cat. I think of Mandy Robertson,
her dad picking her up at her house every other weekend.
Will you be getting a motorhome? I ask. Silence. Maybe
the table lamp shifts then, and windows rattle, and I leave
to slither tummy-down the basement steps to watch
the old black-and-white, wait for the man to say, it’s Sunday,
July 16, 1973; there’s been a quake in Juneau. Maybe
there’s a muffled noise from the bureau that blocks that stair space,
and when I retrieve the kitten from the top left drawer,
I am ashamed that I may have done this, that I have forgotten
that I have done this. What if Mother Nature is that big;
and Daddy forgets us here; and even I am capable
of small catastrophes? Maybe
I turn off the TV, the kitten purrs up at me, and I lie
with my cheek against the linoleum floor.
It’s cool, but should stay light through evening.
When Nana died I waved from porch steps
to the procession of cars winding down our street
and around the corner like the Hungry Caterpillar.
Too young for an open casket, I stayed behind
with the ham and turkey trays, the cubed cheeses,
and remembered Nana writing letters on blue unlined
paper as thin as tissue wrap. I’d marvel at her neat
linked loops and sloping lines written in her quick,
untiring hand. Weeks later at Green Hills, Mother brought
roses to that shining plaque, complained that the grass
wasn’t mowed, and ran down the hillside crying, dodging
the grave markers like the grey cones in the P.E. obstacle course.
I didn’t know what to say. I’d heard about brass handles,
the satin pillow, and how Nana looked just like she was sleeping,
and smiling even. But I couldn’t picture her under there,
bundled up like old letters and sealed away.
Then the baby died, too small for the car seat,
Aunty said, after the car went skidding, a slick road,
a narrow bridge in Oregon. My sister demonstrated
with the Matchbox firetruck on Mom’s waxed kitchen floor.
Though I was older then, Oregon was a magic place,
a snowy place with too many stars. I pictured the baby
dancing there in her white Christening dress, lost,
like Thumbelina in the Ice Palace. At the cemetery,
there was nothing to prove her there, just a dusty heap
in the new part of Babyland. I heard Mom arguing
for a plaque like Nana’s, but Uncle said it was enough
that she was with Jesus now.
Now William has joined my untethered dead,
and I’m too old to write a storybook ending,
to imagine him stumbling home like Hansel out
of the woods, shielding blue eyes from surprising sun.
Friends say it’s best to have no final image, to just
believe the doctors took his heart, his liver, or some
other part of him, and the surfers swam his ashes out
early one Saturday while I lay sleeping. But I need more
than a plaque outside a Long Beach bar. I need
to anchor my dead so they won’t float daily around me,
like dust motes you can see when the light is right.
I need to be there; I need the right to say goodbye;
I need to touch them in their pretty boxes,
before everything is burned or buried.
I am left with the headboard, the baseboard,
the cold metal rails in between. I set up camp
in the middle – sleeping bag, feather down,
extra pillows at the edges to prevent my rolling,
colliding with the bars – I could be
a four-year-old, but I try not to think of fours:
the anniversaries I could have had, the child
who would be walking, the four years clouding over
in the haze of unmet expectations, four years
that become like distance – harder to latch onto,
a train I missed over and over again. I could be three,
already delighting in memory: last week’s carousel,
spinning like my top, my music box playing
the same soft melody. Or one, a child in a room
of heavy shadows, no words for alone, for leaving,
my body’s growth and gurglings its own sweet comfort.
The retreat, I find, is easy, and I am shrinking further still,
curling up around myself, hard and rounded,
like a nut in a thick, tight shell.
for ten, twelve, fourteen days
it flows, thin and bright
and pungent as old pennies
on a child’s dresser top.
I bleed my youth without cramping
or tissue loss; swing sets, turtles,
paper dolls fall from and all around me,
return to the earth and those brief days
of endless possibility.
I bleed a gawky teen, short skirts
and low self-confidence; I purge
my girlfriends’ older brothers who slipped
us beer before the dances, their hands cold
and insistent beneath the creaking bleachers.
I bleed my mother’s sleepless nights;
her pacing, tears, and lectures trickle
right from the marrow of me. I drain
two fathers, my old room, sibling rivalry.
I bleed boyfriends, flings, and lovers, and so shed
want, and shame, anxiety. I flow old friends
who died before they fully left me.
With this ring, I bleed red, for ten, twelve,
fourteen days, to love, to honor, to cherish,
to simply let my husband in, to make this space
inside of me.