Corn Dance

by Nels Hanson

In the Aztec Corn Dance
beautiful maidens in costume
danced in rows, like rows of corn,
all looking straight ahead as
they rose like sprouting seeds
and like corn stalks swayed
and flowered in the wind
and from their breasts
raised cupped hands, the ripe
ears of corn. Behind them
priests roved silently up and
down the lines of dancers until
at random or hearing the whisper
of a God a priest cut the head
from the human corn that fell.
While facing forward and without
faltering the other dancers
continued for as long as their
corn might grow. Cruel sacrifice,
horrid ritual to please an evil
deity of nature, or strange
shadow of all our lives, all of
us dancing as others fall and
our eyes ahead for a while
we keep dancing?


Nels Hanson grew up on a farm in the San Joaquin Valley of California and has worked as a farmer, teacher and contract writer/editor. His fiction received the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award and Pushcart Prize nominations in 2010, 12, and 2014. Stories have appeared in Antioch Review, Black Warrior Review, Southeast Review and other journals and are in press at Fiction Southeastand ELJ Publications. Poems appeared in Word Riot, Oklahoma Review, Pacific Review and other magazines, and are in press at Squalorly, Sediments, Blotterature, Digital Papercut, Indiana Voice Journal, Lost Coast Review, and Straight Forward Poetry. Poems in Outside In Literary & Travel Magazine and Citron Review were nominated for 2014 Pushcart Prizes and poems in Sharkpack Review Annual were awarded its Prospero Prize.


From the Author

My poems try to address past and future history and the old questions: Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? I suppose my poems also ask, “Is history circular or spiral? Do we only repeat or do we somehow advance?”



Back to Table of Contents