This Late Thanks by Hayden Saunier

This Late Thanks

Hickory nuts shake down from shagbarks
onto blacktop, their leather cases cracked

at the seams, releasing the dense center
that as a child, I’d try to bust open

for food with a hammer against stone.
It never worked out. My first careful blows

revealed an intricate chambered hardness
that clenched the meat too tightly for my fingers

to pick out so I’d bring the hammer down
hard as Thor, which smashed the halves to mush

shot through with broken shell, impossible
to eat. Sometimes, even a truck can’t bust

a hickory nut’s core. Today, they drop
and settle atop asphalt, or skitter

into ditches to soften and take root,
get storm-washed into creeks to rot, decay,

go round again. For years, I thought that if
I really tried, I could discover where

the sweet spot lives between slow patient time
and swift obliteration— the perfect

angle, words, or pressure point to crack,
precisely to the right degree, the small

hard architectures held so tight inside—
but no such place. Instead, I have this late

and quiet thanks for fate or happenstance
or maybe even grace, that any one of us

has fallen, broken just enough,
onto an earth, or into hands, that give.


Hayden Saunier is the author of five books of poetry, including A Cartography of Home, published in 2021. Awards include the Pablo Neruda Prize, Rattle Poetry Prize, Gell Poetry Award, Keystone Prize, and a dozen Pushcart Prize nominations. She directs No River Twice (poetry + improvisation), an interactive, audience-driven poetry reading/performance. More at

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